New Year's concerts boon to Hard Rock, bust for city parking revenue
By Frank Parlato Jr.
June 05, 2012
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster has talked about the publicly funded Hard Rock Café concerts as a boon to parking downtown.
The Buffalo News quoted him on Jan. 12, 2010 as saying the concerts are a “form of economic development because they draw people downtown, as well as a way to boost city parking revenue that, unlike most casino revenue, can be pumped directly into the city budget’s general fund.
“Last year, revenue at the Rainbow Centre ramp increased on the nights that free outdoor concerts were held.
“’Parking revenues go into the general fund, so they help to reduce the burden on our taxpayers,” Dyster said. “So, to us, that’s economic development.’”
But is it true?
Hard Rock summer concerts are held on Saturdays nights in July and August, the busiest days of the tourist season. A great deal for Hard Rock. They sell concessions. But City parking lots were always full on Saturdays long before the Hard Rock Summer concert series began in 2007.
However, there is one Hard Rock Concert where parking revenue can be measured: The annual New Year’s Eve concert and guitar drop.
Unlike the summer concerts, where there are tens of thousands of tourists parking downtown, there would be little paid parking other than those who come to see the Hard Rock New Years’ Eve show.
We made FOIL requests for parking revenue for December 31, 2009 – 2011 for all four city parking lots in order to judge the money the city raked in for parking.
In 2009, the city paid Hard Rock $23,000 for the New Years Eve concert featuring Rik Emmet.
Parking revenue for December 31, 2009 for all four lots was $630.
For the December 31, 2010 concert, Hard Rock got $50,000.
The Mayor and Hard Rock manager Dominic Verni said that concert drew 12,000 people. Hard Rock booked a band called Smash Mouth.
The city took in $1,105 in parking revenue.
The city gave Hard Rock $50,000 for the December 31, 2011 concert featuring the Wailers.
The city collected $1,364 in parking.
All told the city paid Hard Rock $123,000 for three New Years Eve concerts. They took in $3,097 in parking revenue. By one metric measurement: parking, the city lost $119,903.
Another gain the city was supposed to reap from Hard Rock concerts was sales and bed taxes paid by people who stayed overnight in hotels after they went to the Hard Rock concerts.
The city gets to keeps 4 percent of the bed tax and half (4 percent) of the 8 percent sales tax from hotels.
The city has never provided any measurement of how many people stayed at hotels because of concerts.
However, assuming the average hotel on New Year’s Eve was $100, with 4 percent bed tax and 4 percent sales tax, the city gets $8 for every room rented.
At $8 per room, in order to get back $50,000 invested, the concert would have to produce 6,250 rooms rented that night.
The problem is the entire city has only 3,241 rooms.
Contact Frank Parlato Jr.