It could soon cost a bit more — from 50 cents to $3.50 — to attend Bisons games, Canalside festivals, concerts at KeyBank Center and shows at Kleinhans and Shea's.
The Brown administration this week outlined proposed surcharges to the prices of tickets at cultural and sports events to cover the city's cost of providing maintenance and security.
The fees would be added on individual tickets to events at Canalside, Coca-Cola Field, KeyBank Center, Kleinhans Music Hall and Shea’s Performing Arts Center, according to a proposal submitted Tuesday to the Common Council. Tickets sold for charity events at the venues would be exempted from the fee.
Under the proposal, the fee would be:
- 50 cents for tickets with face value of $10.01 to $25.
- $1.50 for tickets with face value of $25.01 to $50.
- $2.50 for tickets with face value of $50.01 to $75.
- $3.50 for tickets with face value of $75.01 and above.
The proposed fee has support in the Council.
"I would say there's a pretty good chance it will pass because it was part of the budget discussions before the budget passed," said Council President Darius G. Pridgen. "Although no one wants to see a fee or hike in any parts of city government, we know that it's necessary, according to what we're being told by the administration, for the increased amount of first responders that are now needed for the events."
Buffalo residents would get a break under the proposal that Mayor Byron W. Brown submitted. They would be eligible for refunds if they show proof they paid the fee and live in the city.
The Council insisted on including that provision, Pridgen said.
“Because one of the driving factors that the mayor said — at least to us — for why he wanted to have this fee was because of the amount of money we were paying for public safety for people to come from outside the city,” Pridgen said. “So it was the opinion of several council members … that the people in the City of Buffalo who already pay should not be double-taxed for that service.”
If the fee is approved, Donna J. Estrich, commissioner of Administration and Finance, would have 30 days to put together a plan for how city residents would get refunds and how much time they would have to seek them, city officials said.
The surcharge would generate an estimated $2 million for the city, officials said.
The venue operators would collect the surcharge, track the number of tickets sold for the month, calculate the fees collected and transmit the money to the city. The fees would go into the city's Public Facility, Sports, Theater and Artistic Fund.
Brown announced the ticket surcharge plan when he introduced the current 2018-19 budget in May.
“This surcharge recognizes these venues are regional assets that draw people from Western New York and beyond. This fee is expected to alleviate the disproportionate burden on city taxpayers and spread the cost in a more equitable manner,” Brown said when he unveiled his budget plan in May. “The reason for this particular fee: In the post-9/11 age we live in, we have seen mass casualty events too numerous to mention. We need to have police and other first responders that are trained to respond to such events, prevent such events and protect the users of these facilities.”
According to the mayor, the surcharge would help cover the costs of training for emergency responders and overtime needed to ensure the safety of ticket holders. The surcharge also would cover the costs of police patrol, traffic control, emergency response, infrastructure in the surrounding area, capital maintenance of the buildings. It would also cover services provided in the vicinity of the venues, such as bringing in extra crews to plow snow to make sure streets around the buildings are safe.
Now, city residents bear 100 percent of the costs of the services provided at the venues, in property taxes and other fees, said city spokesman Michael DeGeorge.
The ultimate goal is public safety, for visitors to get in and out in a safe and reasonable way, DeGeorge said.
Under the proposal, a fee would be imposed once per ticket and would be in addition to any other fees, surcharges or taxes. Tickets entitling more than one person to attend an event would be counted as one ticket for each individual.
Each season ticket in a package would be counted as an individual ticket.
Tickets for admission to a single event lasting longer than 24 consecutive hours would be counted as one ticket for each day.
The proposal requires approval from the Common Council, which plans to discuss it at a committee meeting Tuesday.
Approval of the legislation could happen in September, Pridgen said.
The idea of an entertainment fee drew mixed responses Wednesday from those The News interviewed at Shea’s.
“Tickets are already expensive enough. I’m a seasonal subscriber, so I’m not sure how much it’s going to affect me,” said Donna Levy of Clarence. “But if there is a warranted reason, a dollar or two more won’t affect me that much.”
“I don’t mind at all,” said Kim Reese of Buffalo. “I come here often. I have season tickets. If the surcharge is for a beautiful place like Shea’s – to maintain it and to provide security – then I would absolutely (pay more).”
Sharon Chamberlain of Grand Island said she did not think a surcharge is necessary.
“It’s so expensive now to go for entertainment.” she said. “You have to come down here and pay for parking, so you’re talking about a lot of money. As far as surcharge goes, I think the government already gets enough.”
News Staff Report Anny Kim contributed to this report.