Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Brook Run Skate Park revenues, attendance lagging
The Crier; Feb 26, 2008
DeKalb County Parks and Recreation officials are looking at expanding the concessions, offering training and holding tournaments at the Brook Run Skate Park as they try to close the gap between the operating expenses and revenue. However, DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones resisted a suggestion to raise the fees at the February 19 board of commissioners work session.
Since the opening on July 28, 2007, fees from skaters and BMX bike riders have totaled $48,279 and the county has netted $10,430 from concession machines. Meanwhile personnel expense at the skate park has reached $66,798. In its presentation on the first five months of operations, the Parks Department did not mention the cost of electricity for the 27,000-square foot lighted skate park.
DeKalb County Associate Parks Director Marvin Billups said 3,555 people have registered to use the park and signed waivers. Of these, 77 percent were DeKalb County residents, 15 percent were other Georgia residents and 8 percent lived outside the state.
“In the early going, we thought we were going to have a premier facility and everybody from everywhere was going to come in,” Billups said. There has been little marketing beyond the immediate area, but a Canadian and a national magazine have featured the new skate park, he added.
Commissioner Jeff Rader noted the annual pass for DeKalb youths for the skate park was $40, the same as a two-month pass for county swimming pools. While swimming pools draw from a limited area, the state-of-the-art skate park could pull from Fulton and Gwinnett Counties and still have access for DeKalb residents, he said. Rader suggested the county promote the skate park in skater publications and at skate shops and consider raising the fees.
“Given the tight budget, it is a top priority to avoid subsidizing programs where it makes sense,” Rader said, adding that the county might have to raise taxes to fund the skate park. He pointed out bonds paid for the capital expenses. “It seems reasonable that those people using it should pay toward the operating expenses.”
“We did not build that facility with the primary purpose of making money. We built that facility as a quality-of-life facility,” Jones said, adding that the Parks Department was not in the business of managing a chief money-raising operation and he was more concerned with the accurate accounting of money from the facility.
“That is a public park and I don’t want to discourage young people from coming to that park,” the CEO said. “Their parents are paying for it.”
To attract more regional users to the park, Commissioner Larry Johnson asked if a BMX bike tournament was included in the strategic plan. In response, Parks Director Marilyn Boyd Drew said she did not have a completion date for the plan, which would include regional tournaments.
Admission fees for DeKalb residents are $3 for youths and $4 for adults, and for non-residents, $5 for youths and $6 for adults. Annual passes cost $40 for DeKalb youths, $50 for DeKalb adults, $60 for non-resident youths and $70 for non-resident adults. Of the annual passes issued, 222 went to DeKalb youths, 68 to DeKalb adults, 81 to non-resident youths and 48 to non-resident adults.
There have been 11,844 visitors to the skate park so far.
“We were looking for something for teenagers to do,” Billups said.
While 58 percent of the skate park users were between 16 and 25 years old, nine percent were between 46 and 55 years old. Skaters ranged in age from five to 62. Because of the older demographics and the staffing, the skate park has not had the discipline problems that other skate parks had, Billups said. The skate park also has a security camera and monitors.
Billups said plans under consideration included selling merchandise and hot food such as pizza at the skate park, holding a skating camp this summer, providing training tapes on monitors, and installing a change machine and wireless computer connectivity for parents.
In June 2007, the Parks Department reported that their survey of eight organizations indicated operating budgets for skate parks ranged from $75,000 to $200,000 and the average revenue was $135,000 with an average annual attendance of 30,000.