Lincoln Bilderback enjoys skating at Anthem Skatepark while his little brother, Silas, looks on.
by NATHANIEL NELSON
Since 2015, Zach Krage has been running Anthem Skatepark and Board Shop out of the West Recreation Center (WRC), but after an increase in insurance costs to $11,000 annually, Krage approached the city with a request that it take some of the financial burden off his shoulders. Last month, the Winona City Council informally supported removing the insurance requirements from Anthem’s lease agreement, as well as taking over some utility costs, which would allow Krage to save thousands of dollars a year in overhead. The council will vote on the updated contract at its meeting on Monday.
The amendment to the current agreement will release Krage of his insurance requirement and move the skatepark back to city ownership. Krage will continue to operate the board shop in the building. According to Patrick Menton, assistant recreation director of Winona Park and Recreation, the city will take over repair and maintenance of the ramps as well as several utilities, including a phone line and water and sewage fees.
“The city has already been paying for electric, gas and pest control, which comes out to $342, which it would have to pay that even if it were empty,” Menton explained. The extra utilities and park maintenance would push the city’s payments to an estimated $797 per month.
In exchange for being able to keep the board shop in the building rent-free, Krage will staff and supervise the park, which in turn saves the city $24,000 per year in labor costs, while ticket sales will continue to be retained by Anthem.
“We’re not just giving out a free space. It’s a trade for service,” Menton said.
In spring 2015, the outdoor skatepark at the East End Recreation Center was closed due to the dilapidated ramps and equipment, which had gone without maintenance for several years. The city discussed seeking a private group to run a skatepark in town, which is when Krage and Randy Kline proposed building an indoor park at the WRC. The two reused many of the ramps from the old skatepark, and worked with city staff and a local contractor to construct the current park at Anthem. Since then, the park has been operated and maintained privately, and the park recently added an outdoor ramp.
“Our skatepark never looked that good over on the East end,” council member Michelle Alexander said, adding that the facility was her voting location this year.
Krage operates both the storefront and oversees the park on a day-to-day basis, which the city considers to be compensatory resources, and covers insurance costs but does not have to pay rent. By covering labor costs, Anthem reportedly saves the city more than $2,000 per month.
This year, the park’s attendance grew to 687 people with 2,200 separate visits. Anthem keeps costs down, charging five dollars for the whole day while other similar parks charge by the hour. While Krage said this helps get kids in to skate instead of just adults who can afford an hourly rate, it does not make the park a money-maker.
“[The park] is successful from a city standpoint, but doesn’t make enough to cover its own insurance,” Krage said.
Insurance costs for the facility have skyrocketed to over $11,000 annually for full coverage, according to Menton. In the initial agreement, the city required Krage to carry employers’ liability insurance, commercial general liability, comprehensive automobile liability, and excess liability insurance for both the park and the storefront. Those costs far exceed the revenue from daily visits, which came out to $8,820 last year.
Menton brought three options before the council at the meeting for members to consider. The first involved the city choosing not to do anything. In this case, it would be likely that Anthem would close down due to the surmounting costs.
“We could allow the park to dissolve, and we could seek a new private party to offer skatepark services, but Mr. Krage has already done all the heavy lifting on that,” Menton said. “Not having a park would have a negative impact on the youth and adults that use it. And like what Mr. Krage has said before, if your city does not have a skatepark, it becomes one.”
The second option given would involve the city taking over the skatepark side, while allowing Krage to continue operating the board shop, which would remove Anthem’s insurance requirement for the park. “The city would provide staffing at $2,000 a month, pay utilities, and then Anthem would run the retail store and pay a small rent,” Menton explained. This plan would in turn cost the city $24,000 per year in labor costs.
The third option, which was recommended by Park and Recreation and was best received by the members, was a simple change to the initial agreement to scrap the insurance requirements. Additionally, it would take on electricity, gas, trash and pest control costs amounting to $4,310 a year.
Council members were skeptical of insurance costs, with several asking whether there would be any changes to the city’s costs, but Menton assured the council that there would no changes. “Winona Agency confirmed there would not be an increase in our insurance premium, but we would be assuming an additional risk,” Menton said.
While operating the skatepark at the East End Recreation Center from 2004-2011, the city held liability insurance for the property, and had no claims for injury on the site, Menton said. Menton also noted that any accidents that did not involve negligence from the city would be covered by recreational immunity.
Council members were supportive of the third plan, citing savings in labor costs and the importance of retaining public-private partnerships, and chose to vote on the Park and Recreation recommendation at itsnext meeting. Initially, the resolution was to be brought to the September 4 meeting but was postponed to October 1.