Only a year after opening its performing arts center, the city of Sandy Springs is changing its rental rates for the venue and other facilities within the new City Springs complex.
The amendment to the city’s rates comes after renters complained of some of the add-on fees Sandy Springs charged for some facilities, though the new rates will include a small price increase.
“It’s more driven on (renters') decision-making and not on us. Last year we would require (renters) to add some staff members and they would incur those costs,” Shaun Albrechtson, the center’s executive director, who been on the job only since July 15, said in a presentation on the new rates.
At its meeting Aug. 20 at City Springs, the Sandy Springs Public Facilities Authority, which is the city council acting on behalf of the complex’s venues, voted 6-0 to approve the new rates. The authority also voted 6-0 twice to approve new ticketing fees and operational policies regarding the center, also known as the Byers Theatre, and other City Springs venues.
“This sounds in general like a good improvement,” District 1 Councilman John Paulson said of the new rental rates. “One of the questions we have is last year, when the people would rent our facility, the renter would spend all this money on the facility but then the city would have to pay X for extra costs.”
In response, Albrechtson said, “We’ve done some investigating on why that was happening. The contracting process included the fees and the (event) schedule. (Under the old rate plan), the renter may have felt like they were getting nickel and dimed for the extras.”
The city document on the rates’ changes, regarding the city’s catering policy, states, “One major change from the current rate structure is to move to an all-inclusive rate. This rate assumes the average level of staff and contractor services for each show and provides a flat rate that covers all of those services. It also eliminates in the non-commercial rate structure the current 10% percent rule which states that the rent is the higher of the quoted daily rents or 10% of net ticket sales. This is industry standard for commercial rates but is not common for noncommercial rentals.”
Of the catering policy, District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett said, “If I’ve had any complaints, it’s about the cost of the food in the upstairs venues.”
In response, Albrechtson said, “While we’re raising our rates for catering, we’re even lower than a lot of other similar venues. We’re easily on the bottom 10% of all catering prices compared to other venues.”
Albrechtson also said the city’s 30% discount commercial rate for nonprofits is a higher one for nonprofits than other similar venues in metro Atlanta (and the city gives a 35% discount to nonprofits for its Byers Theatre partners). He said larger events are booked first and get first priority based on size since they need more flexibility on booking dates than smaller events.
Albrechtson also said the city’s conference center will give organizations booking events a 15% discount when the food and beverage minimums are met, and its rental policy allows for rental rates to be set for any event that has a cost, such as a yoga class.
Under the new policy, Sandy Springs is using the CityBar more for independent events instead of just regular events both in its indoor and outdoor facilities.
Albrechtson said under the old rental rates, the city sometimes operated in the red instead of the black.
“We were actually losing some money on some of these contracts, so we want to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.