"It costs about $1 million a year to operate the balloon," said Jeffrey Lalloway, chair of the Great Park board. "The choice for us was to eliminate it or to charge for it. It's not an easy choice for us to make."
The board of directors for the Great Park Corporation is recommending new prices. Approval would still be needed from Irvine City Council - the same people that sit on the Great Park board. If the City Council approves the price increase, adults would pay $10 per ride and children half that.
"I wouldn't want to pay additional money, not $10, not $5, especially because it's been free for years," said Melanie Scott of Irvine.
The board chair says the money will help pay for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, a competition to build the most energy efficient and cost effective solar home. The event, which is to be held at Great Park in October, was expected to cost the park and city more than $3 million.
Lalloway said they had to figure out a way to pay for it and he doesn't want Irvine residents to have to foot the bill for it.
"There's a false narrative that's been created and that is if we want the Solar Decathlon, we have to charge for the balloon and that simply is not true," said Beth Krom, a Great Park board member. "The Solar Decathlon is going to bring over $20 million of economic opportunity."
Also on the chopping block is the city's free New Year's Eve party. And the carousel ride would go from being free to $2 a person. The chair says the cuts translate into $2 million to help pay for the decathlon. If approved by the city council, price hikes would take effect April 1.