Keystone raises conference center surcharge
KEYSTONE – Keystone recently increased a surcharge it adds onto lodging, dining and retail bills, and at least one Keystone resident is not happy about it. The money that comes from the surcharge supports the Keystone Conference Center.
“I think Vail has a sweetheart deal,” said Keystone resident Ralph Schatz, who is also a member of the Keystone Citizens League. “They’re letting the locals out here and conference guests buy them a conference center. I think it’s an unfair way to be funding it.”
The fee went from 4.7 percent to 5.9 percent Nov. 1.
Schatz and league president Bob Follett spoke to the county commissioners Monday about the surcharge, among other resort issues.
A Keystone spokesman said the increase was necessary to cover losses the conference center has experienced recently.
“Since 2000, we’ve had terrorism, an economic slowdown and drought,” said Tim Patterson, Vail Resorts’ vice president of hospitality. “We haven’t been able to make the numbers we had originally projected. As a result, the first year of operation of the new (expanded) conference center, the conference center corporation lost about $1 million. We’re projecting in the second year we’ll have lost another $1 million.
“This isn’t a sustainable business model. The only action we can try to take to shore this up is to raise the surcharge to the max.”
That maximum, established in an agreement between the resort and Keystone homeowners, is 5.9 percent, Patterson said.
The surcharge originally was enacted in the late ’80s to help pay for construction of the original $10 million center. The center was expanded in 2000, at an additional cost of about $12 million. The building is the largest conference venue in the Rocky Mountains.
Patterson said its presence is responsible for about half of the resort’s room reservations. He also pointed out that it is just one of several funding mechanisms Vail Resorts has to pay for the conference center.
The surcharge could go away, Patterson said, if the center ever makes enough money to eliminate the need for those funds.
The surcharge, Schatz said, is “nothing new.”
“But the fact they can just raise it to 5.9 percent is a little disturbing,” he said.
Schatz isn’t sure other homeowners feel the way he does, and that’s what he hopes to learn later this month. The Keystone Citizens League will hold a membership meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Keystone Center, located at 1628 Saints John Road. Patterson will be on hand to explain the surcharge and the reasons for its increase.
“I personally find those reasons faulty, and I hope the public that comes will give Tim a very hard time,” Schatz said. “Before we take any action with Vail, we need to find out how the community feels. Are they outraged? (If not), it may be an issue that’s not worth fighting about.”
Keystone homeowners do get a 15 percent discount on their Keystone restaurant bills, Schatz said, which he views as “a perk that really eases the (surcharge) burden.” He also said it’s possible to avoid paying the fee by frequenting non-resort restaurants and shops.
While County Commissioner Bill Wallace said Monday he believes the surcharge is illegal and can be removed from any bill at the customer’s request, Patterson said that isn’t so.
“The surcharge isn’t optional,” he said. “We disclose it when we book a room and on all of our menus.”
The Keystone Citizens League is a group of about 200 members founded several years ago to represent the resort’s homeowners.
Jane Reuter can be reached at
(970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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