SM PIER — The fundraising drive to save the summer concert series at the Santa Monica Pier is now focusing on a new demographic — the youngsters who drag their parents to the pier to ride the popular carousel.

The Pier Restoration Corp. wants to double the cost of a ride for those 15 years old and up — from $1 to $2 — and charge kids as young as 3 years old $1 for a ride (currently the carousel is free for those 5 and under, and 50 cents for kids 6 to 14).

The price hike, proposed to begin May 1, would bring in an extra $150,000 per year, according to a City Hall report, allowing for an additional $50,000 contribution to this year’s Twilight Dance Series, which is facing a budget shortfall.

The $50,000 payment would put the PRC over the top in its effort to raise $92,000 for the concerts by Wednesday. The PRC started soliciting donations this month after announcing a sharp decline in corporate underwriting had put the series in jeopardy. By last week, the PRC said it had raised $65,000, including a $35,000 gift from the City Council’s discretionary fund.

The City Council would have to agree to the new carousel price schedule for it to take effect. That vote is expected tonight.

In its report, City Hall argues the increases will bring the pier’s carousel ticket prices in line with the rates charged at other similar rides. At the Central Park Carousel in New York City, for example, rides cost $2 with only infants 1 year of age or less getting a free pass. The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round also charges each rider $2.

By Monday, though, two neighborhood groups had already declared their opposition to the idea.

In an e-mail to the council, the Friends of Sunset Park’s board of directors said it doesn’t make sense to double the carousel’s ticket prices so that adults can attend concerts for free.

“Why not charge the Twilight Dance Series attendees so that 3-year-olds can ride the carousel for free?” the group wrote. “City staff bends over backward to provide daycare for 3-year-olds, but now it wants toddlers to subsidize the Twilight Dance Series? It makes no sense.”

The board also said the City Council should hold a public hearing to discuss the possibility of partnering with CBS Radio to hold the summer concerts at a lower cost.

The council earlier this month acknowledged that the radio company had expressed interest in sponsoring the concerts, but members unanimously agreed City Hall should first try to raise funds to pay for the concerts before considering a partnership with a radio company, citing concern a deal with CBS would change the event’s character.

For the concert series’ 25-year life span, Katharine King has been in charge of producing the event.

In its e-mail, the Friends of Sunset Park said it’s time for the PRC to consider a change.

“Why give King and Company $211,000 to provide only 7 concerts this summer when CBS Radio has offered to provide 9 concerts for $116,500?” the e-mail said.

Gregg Heacock, who heads the group Mid-City Neighbors, also sent out an e-mail urging residents to contact council members to express opposition to the carousel price hike proposal.

The PRC’s board is scheduled to discuss plans for the TDS at a meeting on Wednesday, its self-imposed deadline for raising enough money to put on the concerts.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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