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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2007
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Point Mallard Park may turn profit

By Catherine Godbey
cgodbey@decaturdaily.com · 340-2441

How do city leaders describe Point Mallard Park?

“It’s a one-stop destination,” answered City Councilman David Bolding.

“It’s the jewel of the city,” added Jeff Dunlap, director of Parks and Recreation.

Decatur’s “jewel” is shining to levels unrivaled by previous years, resulting in record-setting numbers — and potential future additions.

Dunlap anxiously awaits the analysis of the final numbers. Those should be available sometime in October.

Early predictions indicate that the park may turn a profit for the first time since 1970. Dunlap presented the Parks and Recreation Board with the speculated numbers at a recent meeting.

9% increase

The combination of an elevation in revenue at the J. Gilmer Blackburn Aquatic Center, the campgrounds and the golf course indicate a 9 percent, or $278,000, increase for the entire park.

“The year is not over yet, and we still have revenue coming in,” Dunlap told the board Sept. 20. “...We have never reached $3 million, and we have already broke that this year.”

Marketing projects, including the aquatic center’s online tickets and the campground’s monthly rates, represent reasons for the park’s anticipated profit. Posting an increase of 8 percent over last year, the aquatic center is leading the park’s $3 million campaign.

Point Mallard’s Marketing Coordinator Julianne Lowman said tactics such as the online tickets and park vouchers will reappear next season and continue to generate revenue.

The campgrounds accompany the water park in experiencing a record setting season.

“Over the last couple of years, we have increased our revenue at the campgrounds by 40 percent,” Dunlap said. “When I set the goal of $450,000 for this year, I never thought we’d reach it.”

Exceeded goal

With a weekend remaining to produce revenue for 2007, the campgrounds already have exceeded the goal by $57,000. Parks and Recreation see the green generated by the campgrounds corresponding with the green of the golf course.

Adding a driving range spiked the golf course’s revenue, resulting in a $43,000 increase. But while the golf course flourished, the general park, which consists of batting cages and driving ranges, stumbled.

Dunlap attributed the decrease of several thousand dollars to the implementation of a driving range at the golf course, which transferred business from the park to the golf course.

Marketing

Parks and Recreation found ways to effectively market the aquatic center and campgrounds to travelers and local residents. However, the ice complex still poses a question mark.

“It is about where it was last year,” Dunlap said. “We are almost at maximum booking during the season, we just need to figure out how we will generate revenue in the off-season.”

Chief Financial Officer Gail Busbey said the city will wait until after September to examine Point Mallard’s complete revenue-to-expense ratio.

Dunlap believes the anticipated profits will provide Parks and Recreation with leverage in discussions with the City Council concerning the park’s future.

Expenses in the department’s capital budget for 2008 include additional sewer service for the campgrounds. Currently 115 sites provide sewer connections, leaving 95 sites without service.

“The campgrounds have really turned around, and putting in sewer service to more sites will increase that revenue even more,” said Bolding, liaison to the Parks and Recreation department.

Along with the sewer extension, the budget includes attractions at the aquatic center. Parks and Recreation is requesting funding for a lazy river and speed slides, which will boost the park’s marketability.

Growing attendance

“Attendance is growing every year, and a lazy river would accommodate a lot of people at one time,” Dunlap said.

The allure of the speed slides exists in the park’s ability to manufacture the attraction at a low cost. Dunlap envisions locating the future slides alongside the existing slides, where a slope already exists.

“This is a way we can generate the biggest amount of revenue possible while keeping expenses to a minimum,” Dunlap explained.

Whether Parks and Recreation receives the additional funding depends on approval of the department’s capital budget.

“I’ve talked to other council members, and they’ve been receptive to the idea of adding these attractions,” Bolding said.

“We (the City Council) have been more cooperative with the funding and that has helped the park succeed.”

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