The Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board rejected an idea Monday to collect parking fees at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park special events to help offset operating expenses.
Parks & Recreation Director Lou Recchio said that he has been mulling over ways to reduce the operating expenses at the park’s special events.
“We have the strategic plan every year where we go over what the village would like to do over the next five, 10 and 15 years, and one of the issues on my plate was the community events that we run,” he said.
Recchio said that some staff members suggested charging parking fees to reduce the losses to the village in running its major holiday events.
“It’s not the parking issue per se,” he said. “We’re looking at ways to offset our expenses.”
Running four major events at Commons Park each year costs the village about $300,000, he said.
“We try to offset that with various revenues, such as from concessions and the carnivals that we bring in, along with corporate sponsorships,” Recchio said. “We’re hoping to get $150,000 this coming year from those various revenues, so we have a $150,000 shortfall.”
Recchio has been collecting information from other municipalities on how they find revenue.
He noted that the Royal Palm Beach Village Council has been adamant about not charging a gate fee, but a per-car parking fee could offset the cost.
“We can park about 2,000 cars in the park at one time,” Recchio said. “At $5 a car, that’s $10,000 for an event. We can realistically bring in an additional $40,000 to $50,000 in revenues, and I don’t think $5 to come in would break the bank.”
Board Member John Riordan said the net revenue would be less due to paying people to collect the parking fees, and Board Member John Ruffa suggested using youth athletic league members, who could get a small percentage.
Recchio added that the $300,000 to run the events does not include the cost of village employees helping run the events, which is built into the budget.
He asked board members for their opinions about the concept of charging for parking and whether to move in that direction.
Board Member Shenoy Raghuraj said the large events make a bottleneck on Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
“Adding someone stopping people there, it doesn’t seem worth it,” Raghuraj said. “If you want to charge somebody for something, charge them for an expressway to get in and out. They’ll pay you a hundred bucks.”
Recchio said the big bottleneck is primarily on the Fourth of July.
“Everybody is trying to get in there to see the fireworks, and everybody is trying to get out at the same time, but I think if you see these other events, it’s a steady flow,” he said.
Raghuraj suggested having special events for the vendors, who pay fees to participate, and using that revenue to offset the cost of major events.
Recchio said corporate sponsorships are getting tougher and tougher.
“The goal is to get $100,000 just from sponsorships,” he said. “Can we get it? We had one of our major sponsors cut its sponsorship in half.
Recchio said the parking fee was just an idea to see if it’s feasible. “It may not be worth it,” he said. “Bringing in $40,000 or $50,000 just in parking, that doesn’t pay for the fireworks.”
Board Member Sean Fitzpatrick agreed with Raghuraj on the bottleneck at Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
“The net morale impact to our community would be pretty bad,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that at the last holiday festival, it took him 45 minutes to get from Okeechobee Blvd. to the park. “It’s not just the Fourth of July, it’s those big four events, which are fantastic events.”
Recchio said that he shared the concern about the impact to residents. “That’s why we’re bringing it up,” he said. “Is it something we even want to address? Will it have a negative impact?”
Recchio added that the village had always prided itself in having no entry free, although vendors charge for their offerings.
Board Member Phyllis Katz said that she would rather charge a higher vendor fee than for parking.
Board Member Ray Nazareth asked about other municipalities, and Recchio said that Palm Beach Gardens, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Greenacres and Wellington do not collect parking fees for special events.
Nazareth said that he didn’t want to set a precedent.
“I don’t want to be the community that sets this precedent,” Nazareth said. “We want to look at some revenue streams that are successful in other municipalities.”
Board Chair Marcus Williams agreed with Katz’s suggestion of charging the vendors a higher fee.
“Once they get in the event, that’s their decision to purchase these items,” he said.
Fitzpatrick suggested giving board members a month to consider concepts to increase revenue, and Recchio agreed.