Published on : Wednesday, November 29, 2017
At the work session of Elizabethtown City Council on Monday a proposed $20,000-study to find operational efficiencies at Elizabethtown Sports Park was met with stringent objections from council members.
Patrick Clark of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau’s board asked the council to partner on a proposed six- to eight-week study by Sports Facilities Management.
“There is not another park our size or in our market to compete against that is opera¬ted by a city. That is not to say the city of E’town doesn’t do a fantastic job. The people who run the park out there do a fabulous job,” Clark said. “Can it be done better? I don’t even know if it can be done better. It might be able to be done more cost-efficiently, though. So, that is what we want to explore.”
According to budget projections, the city expects an operating deficit for the park of about $1 million this fiscal year. It’s expected to cost the city about $1.75 million to operate and maintain the sports park in 2017-18.
Clark expressed concern about increasing operational costs.
“We are looking at ways to control those costs and we have some ideas that may be different from your alls, but we’re basically all on the same path,” Clark said. “We want to give visitors the best experience and we want to give them a fantastic place to do their sports and a great city to spend their money in.”
Councilman Marty Fulker¬son, who serves as the council liaison to the tourism board, asked Clark what tourism hoped the study would tell them. Councilmen Ron Thomas and Terry Shipp followed suit.
“There had to be an underlying need or a want to go out and say, ‘We want a proposal,’” Shipp said.
Clark said Sports Facilities Management, which is based in Clearwater, Florida, would assist in evaluating park operations. The study would provide research, not management support.
For example, he said the company can analyze food traffic and bookings. The management company would be asked to review the past five years to see where the park is and where it is going in the future.
Clark said it basically was to learn what the city and tourism could do better.
Shipp said the city and tourism can look at some issues together to improve efficiency, such as concessions costs or sponsorship opportunities, rather than hiring an outside entity.
Councilman Bill Bennett echoed that sentiment. He said Sports Park Director Seth Breitner’s input and experience could benefit discussions.
“I don’t doubt his expertise one bit. I think it would be a waste of city money to hire an outside entity,” Bennett said.