The City Council wants the city to get $2 for every ticket sold for rock concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
The city is facing a large 2009 budget shortfall after the state cut an expected $1.9 million in revenue coming to the city from the video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway during this year’s state budget process.
“We are just trying to recoup some of our costs,” said Kenneth Ivins, the city’s finance commissioner.
He said the city police and fire departments are kept busy before, during and after large rock music concerts at SPAC, directing traffic, answering emergency medical calls and backing up the state park police.
Ivins feels the $2 surcharge on each rock concert ticket — the fee would not be levied on ballet or Philadelphia orchestra tickets — would help the city meet its public safety costs during its current economic crisis.
For example, the two sold-out Dave Matthews Band concerts held at SPAC June 12 and 13 would have generated $100,000 for the city if a $2 surcharge were in effect.
John Huff, general manager for Live Nation, which schedules and presents the rock concerts at SPAC, said his company opposes the surcharge.
“I believe this would have a very negative impact on our ability to bring the top level of talent to SPAC,” he said Monday.
“From zero to $2 [per ticket] is a huge impact,” Huff said about the proposed surcharge.
“This would be a significant tax that would be applied to all our concertgoers,” he said.
During the current economic downturn, Live Nation has been offering special deals on tickets every Wednesday. On Wednesdays, a person can order tickets without a service charge and on some Wednesdays get a concert ticket that includes food and beverage items at no additional cost.
“We are doing a number of things to save our fans money,” Huff said.
Live Nation feels that it brings tens of thousands of people to Saratoga Springs, many of whom eat at local restaurants and shop in local shops who wouldn’t otherwise come to the city.
Rock concerts bring 220,000 to 250,000 people to the city each year. “This year it could be even more,” Huff said.
Live Nation sold out the two Dave Matthews Band concerts in June and has already sold out the Phish concert that is scheduled for Aug. 16.
Huff said the concerts’ economic impact on the Saratoga Springs area is $40 million to $50 million.
“Saratoga is such a wonderful destination. People come here from all over the country,” Huff said. He said these visitors stay in local hotels.
Huff added that Live Nation does not feel the rock concert crowds burden city police and city firefighters to any degree.
He said Live Nation works with the state park police at the Saratoga Spa State Park to make sure the concerts are presented safely and smoothly.
Park police arrest unruly concertgoers, not local police, he said.
Ivins said Monday the City Council had planned to set a public hearing on the rock concert ticket surcharge proposal at tonight’s council meeting. But this was pulled from the agenda late Monday afternoon.
“We are still doing more research … on how we go about it,” Ivins said.
He said it appears that the city would have to approve the surcharge measure and then send it to Albany for approval by the state Legislature and governor in 2010.Ivins said he hopes the ticket surcharge public hearing can be set during the council’s August meeting.
He said he has heard others propose the rock concert ticket surcharge in the past.
“Now I’m trying to lead the charge,” Ivins said.
The City Council has been struggling with the 2009 budget since it lost $1.9 million in VLT revenue.
Meanwhile, sales tax revenue is on the decline because of the economic recession.