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Attendance at the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center at Point Mallard is booming this summer. Marketing officials say 'duck bucks' and electronic ticketing may be helping. Through Sunday, 46,486 visitors walked through the gates compared to 40,000 at the same time last year.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Attendance at the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center at Point Mallard is booming this summer. Marketing officials say "duck bucks" and electronic ticketing may be helping. Through Sunday, 46,486 visitors walked through the gates compared to 40,000 at the same time last year.

It's ducky at Mallard
Decatur water park experiences explosion in attendance, revenue

By Catherine Godbey
cgodbey@decaturdaily.com 340-2441

The gift shop at J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center accepts cash, credit — and, yes — duck bucks.

Never seen a duck buck? You will, if you rent a locker.

The duck buck resembles a dollar, but don't expect to see a dead president's profile. Mike Mallard, the park's mascot, graces the center of the duck buck, which patrons can use only at the gift shop.

Julianne Lowman, marketing coordinator for Decatur Parks and Recreation, believes the launch of the duck buck voucher system and electronic ticket system, plus an increase in rental parties, is contributing to an attendance explosion.

Through Sunday, 46,486 visitors walked through the gates compared to 40,000 at the same time last year.

"On Saturday, we had 2,935 in attendance. That's double the amount we had last year on the same day. Sunday we tripled the number of people from last year. Our ATM actually ran out of money," Lowman said.

These numbers do not include the attendance associated with rental parties.

Also, security is increasing at the water park, mainly because a teenager drove a city dump truck into the wave pool after hours. Park and Recreation is hiring a security service for the perimeter after hours.

Two other parks — Wilson Morgan and Jack Allen Recreation Center— are getting signage and increased police patrols to stop people gathering after hours.

After years of struggling to make money, the Aquatic Center may have discovered a way to keep money in the park using duck bucks.

Previously, visitors rented a locker for $5. When they turned in the key, the park reimbursed them $2. This year the Aquatic Center replaced the $2 reimbursement with two duck bucks. The vouchers are accepted at the gift shop.

Locker rental revenue from May indicates the duck bucks are spending. Rental was $1,500 above last year, totaling $3,330, Lowman said.

"With places like Walt Disney World, people are not used to a park that has reasonably priced items," Lowman said. "The average cost of our T-shirts is $12."

Last year the Aquatic Center received $64,600 from after-hour parties; this year the Aquatic Center anticipates generating $82,600 in parties.

"These numbers do not include the additional revenue from renting the pavilion or from the concession stand," Lowman said.

She attributes the increase in parties to the production of corporate sales kits.

"In the past, we sent out a single generic letter. This year we created corporate sales kits that included beach towels," she said.

Friday, Cook's Pest Control rented the park for its annual party. Carl Monin, Cook's vice president of human resources, praised Point Mallard's family atmosphere.

"It's great for both young and old," he said.

Point Mallard is tapping the Internet to increase its profits. This season the Aquatic Center unveiled the Click N Print ticket system.

"We started this system because we had so many people calling and asking about purchasing tickets online," said Lowman.

To date the system has sold over 580 tickets, translating into more than $30,000.

Lowman envisions a continued increase in revenue and attendance with the approaching Stihl Timber Sports Series and the Spirit of America festival.

Police orders

Decatur Parks and Recreation Department is posting these rules at Wilson Morgan Park and Jack Allen Recreation Complex.

  • No trespassing

  • No loitering

  • No soliciting

  • No ATVs or dirt bikes

  • No tractor-trailer parking

  • No camping

  • No alcoholic beverages

    - Catherine Godbey

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