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Shipshewana reaches user fee agreement with Blue Gate

The Shipshewana Town Council and the Shipshewana Redevelopment Commission met in special session Friday to vote on an amendment to the Bond Enhancement Agreement that the town had with the former owners of the Splash Universe Water Park.

The two boards also passed a fee agreement with the Blue Gate Theater.

The amendment to the Bond Enhancement Agreement was to redefine a “water park.” The water park, which closed May 19, is set to be dismantled and removed, which was reportedly part of the purchase agreement between Focus Group and Riegsecker Marketplace, which purchased the property.

Riegsecker Marketplace had expressed concern that, under the old agreement, the town could ask for a user fee for pool amenities at the hotel. The amendment redefined “park,” noting that the definition did not include a swimming pool, hot tub or “other similar improvements typically provided at hotels.”

With the new definition, the hotel would not be required to collect a user fee from guests who use the hotel’s amenities. Previously, the user fee went to help cover costs of the event center.

The town negotiated a new user fee agreement with Blue Gate Theater that will start in 2014. Under the agreement, there will be a $1.75 per ticket user fee that will be paid to the town. The fee will be $1.85 per ticket in 2015 and $2 in 2016.

It was noted that the user fee will be collected only on tickets used for admission and not at the time of sale. Therefore, tickets used for events beginning in January 2014 will incur the fee, even if the ticket was purchased in 2013. The fee would apply to any production created or promoted by the Blue Gate that takes place within the town limits, including shows at the current Blue Gate Theater uptown.

The agreement also notes that per ticket fee will not apply to complimentary tickets.

Town Manager Mike Sutter told the boards that the document wasn’t perfect, but was the best they could do.

“We felt that by losing the park, we could lose everything,” council president Roger Yoder said. This way, he added, the town would be able to get something.

Sutter noted that the town did remove free admission for ticketholders to events. He added that the town could look at allowing free or discounted admission on an event by event basis.

 Sutter also said that he feels that the partnership between the town and Blue Gate will be more beneficial that it had been with the previous owners. “We’ll work together to make this go,” he added.

The boards also agreed that Riegsecker would be faster in remitting the fees to the town, which had been an ongoing issue with the previous owners.