Wichita City Council discuss rate increases at Century II

The cost of using Century II is going up.

Wichita City Council members got their first look at how much Tuesday, the opening move in a rate structure that hasn’t changed for 12 years.

John D’Angelo, the facility’s manager and the city’s arts and cultural services manager, proposed general rate increases that could increase annual building revenue as much as 14.5 percent. However, he said, it’s impossible to bridge an annual deficit that was almost $500,000 in 2011, despite an annual $1.5 million subsidy from the city’s convention and tourism fund. That fund comes from guest tax revenue collected at the city’s hotels.

“Decreasing the tax subsidy is a benchmark we need to try to achieve,” D’Angelo said.

Under D’Angelo’s proposal, rental rates for non-ticketed events would rise from $1,000 a day for the convention hall loge to $1,800, as one example. Convention Hall floor rates would rise from $740 to $1,280. Concert Hall rates would rise from $640 to $1,100, and Exhibition Hall from $740 to $1,280. Rates for the Teall Theater would rise from $240 to $500.

For ticketed events, a 2 percent across-the-board increase is proposed, D’Angelo said.

The proposed rate increases do not include Century II’s major tenants, such as Music Theatre of Wichita, Wichita Symphony and the Wichita Grand Opera. D’Angelo said negotiations will begin shortly with those groups.

Historically, the city has offered those tenants – which are nonprofits – a 30 percent discount for their space, a number that is probably higher with the office and storage space each uses, he said.

“Our goal is not to run them out of business,” D’Angelo said. “We’re going to work with them and try to get a rate for them that’s acceptable.”

Delmar Klocke, who just completed a term as president of the symphony board and who serves on the Music Theatre board, said he expects a positive negotiation with the city.

“We don’t have a lot of room to absorb new costs,” he said. “A lot of the organizations are struggling a little bit. State funding is gone and we don’t know when it will be back, if ever. We’re trying to do everything we can.”

Former Music Theatre board member Steve English said he’s confident the city will remain committed to the quality arts programs at Century II.

“Wayne will be concerned, but he’ll communicate, he’ll talk with the city, go to the board and they’ll work it out,” English said of Wayne Bryan, Music Theatre’s producing artistic director.

D’Angelo admitted that those discounts make it almost impossible for Century II to break even, despite the rate increases and a slight increase in attendance and space rental numbers for 2011.

“It’s more an issue that the policy-makers have decided to be supportive of certain activities we have,” he said.

The changes mark a move to a per-day rate system, the most-used pricing by similar facilities, and will give D’Angelo and his staff the flexibility to negotiate rates with speciality users, such as conventions and repeat events.

“We do know that we’re in a competitive environment,” he said.

No action was taken on the rate proposal Tuesday. It will be placed on a future council agenda, City Manager Robert Layton said.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle