A lengthy discussion between the Toledo City Council and Reinig-Toledo Civic Center representatives ended with a short motion to improve profits without increasing the fees.
The two parties met for more than an hour Nov. 5 at the Reinig Center. The meeting was called to find ways to eliminate the financial shortfalls of the Reinig Center and find ways to increase revenue at the facility.
"I think what this boils down to is we have a big facility here and it costs a lot to run it," Toledo Mayor Dave Svoboda said to open the meeting. "I think we're going to have to raise some rates. We can't keep operating in the hole."
Reinig-Toledo Civic Center
At the end of the meeting, the city council passed a motion that included three parts. The motion was made to not allow use of the kitchen without a $50 fee, keep the thermostat at 50 degrees in the winter when not in use and move forward with marketing the building, along with having Council member Travis Mullen contact the Wieting Theatre about advertising on the pre-movie screens. It passed with a 4-0 vote, as Council member Jeff Filloon was absent.
Kitchen "hot issue"
The kitchen issue was a hot-button topic during the meeting. It came about when Pat Campbell, Reinig Center worker, said it often gets heavily used despite the renter paying for minimal use of the kitchen.
"I think we do need to look at the kitchen fee," Campbell said. "I've had bookings that say they will have minimal use of the kitchen. Turning on the coffee pot, turns into the water, turns into the dishes and then we don't get money for the kitchen use. We can't babysit them.
"The kitchen fee should be built right in," she said. "You don't say separate, because they are going to lie to us."
Her comments sparked a discussion about the kitchen. It's being used a lot and not always paid for, according to Campbell. The city council suggested the $50 kitchen fee be added to every event that is booked. However, the council and Reinig Center representatives agreed to charge $50 for the kitchen if it's to be used at all, whether for minimal or heavy use.
"Everyone that comes and uses the facility, rants and raves about the facility," Pat Campbell said. "They love the kitchen and what it's supplied with, just everything. They're coming from everyone around us. If we did a little bit of something to get some brides in that have never been here for an event, it couldn't hurt. We've never done anything. That's the way it was set up and no one has pushed to change it. We've now come upon some challenges with it."
Increasing the rental fees was discussed at the meeting, but since they were recently changed, the city council didn't increase them any further. The entire facility, with kitchen use, still remains at $350.
"We have a facility that you don't find very many places," Campbell said. "For our prices, it's awesome. For what they pay and what they get, it's awesome. I don't think it's enough. That's just my opinion. Think about what you get for just $350."
Council member Elmer "Skip" Wilson told everyone to think about something else before thinking of increasing the fees.
"There is one thing you're not taking into consideration," Wilson said. "When you have these weddings, they are staying at the hotels. They are buying things at Fareway and they are buying food at the restaurants. They are helping keep some of these local businesses afloat, so you have to look at it that way."
The temperature issue was brought up by Heath Kellogg, Tama County Economic Development executive director. Kellogg and Joanne Husak, TCED employee, have their offices inside the Reinig Center. He said the thermostat that controls their offices also controls the entryway of the building, which is increasing the heating bill. Unless the duct work is altered, there is no easy way to fix the problem, according to Husak.
"We're talking about cents on the dollar right now," Kellogg said. "In my mind, it's a sales issue and not so much of an operational issue."
To help offset the heating bill, the council agreed to lower the temperature in the banquet rooms while they're not in use. They will remain at 50 degrees during the days when they are not booked.
The primary topic of the meeting was marketing the building. Since it completion in 2004, the Reinig Center has barely been advertised and hasn't been marketed for its main money maker wedding receptions. Kellogg said weddings and alcohol sales are the primary means of income for the facility, but the building isn't only marketed by word of mouth. He had an idea that caught the interest of the city council and other Reinig Center representatives.
"I've talked to a couple of local business that would love to be in here for a bridal fair," Kellogg said. "That's where brides go to make decisions on their weddings. They look at dresses, cakes and facilities. We could charge vendors to come and it can be our major marketing event for the whole year, which I think would increase the bookings for weddings. It's an attempt. I'm not guaranteeing anything, but if you go from nothing to something, we should get this place to make money and not lose money.
"If your main money-generating event is weddings, a bridal fair is the best way to go," he added "I don't think it would cost the City of Toledo a dime. Businesses would come to show off their cakes or dresses or whatever. We would get to show off the facility. It's not rocket science. It's basic marketing 101. We don't have enough weddings. What to do about it - we have to tell people about the facility."
Several area cities, including Marshalltown and Cedar Falls, host bridal fairs every year. Kellogg said he would look into how those are run before scheduling one for Toledo in the spring.
"Nothing ventured, nothing gained," Kellogg said. "You're selling the facility with the facility. We have a lot of local vendors that would probably love to be a part of it."
The city council will re-evaluate the financial statement of the Reinig Center in May.