News » Whistler

Meadow Park programming fees up for non-residents



The Resort Municipality of Whistler is raising program fees for non-residents starting in August.

The changes will apply to registered programs such as swimming lessons, skating programs and fitness programs, while drop-in rates, passes, licensed childcare programs, personal training programs and Registration Service Agreement (RSA) programs (program hosted by third parties at RMOW facilities, with RMOW handling registration) will be unaffected.

The surcharge rate will be 33 per cent.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said it was a difficult decision, but necessary.

"It was not an easy decision to make, but the fact of the matter is that municipal taxpayers pay more than 50 per cent of the costs of Meadow Park Sports Centre, and it's a lot of money — $2.1 million subsidized by taxpayers every year. And we know that 10 per cent of users are from surrounding communities."

Some 33 per cent of swim class participants are non-residents, while the pool also represents the most expensive operational costs for the centre.

Wilhelm-Morden said that the municipality did approach the Village of Pemberton and Squamish-Lillooet Regional District to help fund the recreation centre, and both governments declined.

The RMOW looked at five different options for recovering costs, ranging from increased admission to higher user fees before reaching its decision.

According to a release from the RMOW, a study of other communities across Canada found non-resident surcharges that range from 25 to 70 per cent.

"This isn't something that's all that unusual, when you go to sports centres in other municipalities some charge different rates for residents versus non-residents," said Wilhelm-Morden. "We didn't want to discourage visitors so we didn't change the drop-in rates, and the different fee schedule is really just there so we can make it more fair to Whistler taxpayers... It's not about trying to make a profit or anything."

It's unknown how much revenue the fee changes will generate for the municipality, although it's been estimated that the increase will recover around one per cent of total costs from 2012 to 2014.

There are no further plans currently being discussed to recover costs at Meadow Park, according to Wilhelm-Morden, but user fees will be reviewed periodically.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler is in its second year of a "net zero" budget freeze.