The Canfield Casino is one of the most popular venues in the city for weddings and receptions.
The historic hall is also a money-maker for the city, raking in upward of $250,000 a year in rental fees alone, plus more for chair rentals.
Public officials want the casino to keep making money for the city, but they disagree about how to make that happen.
Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins wants to raise rental rates in 2010 to boost the city’s revenue, but Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco believes increasing the rates will drive people elsewhere and leave the city with less revenue overall.
“I want to stay competitive,” Scirocco said.
The rental rates already will rise in 2009 — between 11 and 27 percent for various rental services. Those rates were set last year when the City Council approved two years’ worth of rental fees at once and then reaffirmed the rates on Dec. 16 with another vote.
But the officials disagree on whether to raise the 2010 rates more than next year’s rental fees. The City Council voted to keep the 2010 rates at the same level as 2009, but Ivins said he wants to revisit the issue and perhaps hike the 2010 fees to bring in more revenue.
Scirocco, whose department oversees the casino, hopes the rates stay where they are.
Weddings and nonprofit fundraisers comprise the bulk of the rentals in Canfield Casino, an 1870 building in Congress Park that was a gaming club during the Victorian era.
The building is booked for a function almost every weekend, Scirocco said.
But next year’s bookings are light on Sundays, which is usually an easy day to fill, he said.
Scirocco is worried that an increase in rental fees next year is scaring away couples who hold receptions in the building and nonprofit organizations that have fundraisers there.
“I want to see the place stay rented,” he said.
Already, the tight economy forced 12 groups — mostly corporate businesses holding holiday bashes — to cancel their parties this year, before the rates even go up.
“People are not spending money like they used to spend money,” Scirocco said.
Next year, the basic facility rental fee rises from $2,100 for a city resident this year to $2,400 next year.
Rentals for nonresidents rise from $2,600 to $2,900 next year.
Local nonprofit organizations paying $1,600 now for a Monday through Thursday rental will have to pay $1,850 next year; weekend rentals that now cost $1,800 will be hiked to $2,050.
Nonprofits that are outside the city limits will pay $2,050 instead of $1,800 on Monday through Thursday, and $2,450 instead of $2,200 on the weekends.
A weekday luncheon that costs $750 now will rise to $950 in 2009.
The fees to use the kitchen, book a ceremony in addition to a reception or hold an after-hours wedding rehearsal will also go up.
Scirocco also wants to continue upkeep on the casino, which has sustained problems because of its age and the fact that it is built on a natural spring. The building has mold in the basement, a problem with the ceiling in the parlor and cracked moldings.
“I’d like to start a ‘Friends of the Casino’ organization,” he said. “It’s part of what people come here to see.”
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