OCEAN CITY – A preliminary meeting with the newly formed Skate Park Committee this week revealed usage data at the Ocean Bowl Skate Park in advance of this spring’s budget discussions.
“Last year, the council looked at possibly closing the skate park during the week as a cost reduction for budgetary concerns. It was met with stiff opposition so we backed off and decided to study it, and put together a group to look at it further, and really look at the numbers, drill down what we can do and can’t do with the public’s input,” Commission Chair Councilman Joe Mitrecic said.
During a budget wrap-up session in April last year, the Mayor and City Council voted to have Ocean Bowl Skate Park operate through the summer during its normal hours, which is open seven days a week during daylight. The changes proposed were to begin the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend when it would continue to be open on weekends, holidays and all Worcester County school days off only, but shut down during the months of January and February during the week. The reduction in hours would have saved the town approximately $21,000.
The council’s consideration sparked a petition online in support of keeping the park open during its normal hours in the off-season. Also, during a Mayor and City Council meeting on May 6, many skate park advocates turned out to voice their support to keeping the park open without changes. By the end of that meeting, the council voted to form a skate park committee of stakeholders and members of the local skateboard community along with town officials to come up with some sort of compromise, but the skate park’s reduction in hours remained in the proposed budget.
Later that month Ocean Bowl advocates returned to Council Chambers to persuade the council to fund the skate park as usual in 2013. The council voted to appropriate $21,000 in the new budget to have the Ocean Bowl operate its normal hours during the off-season and continue with the formation of a skate park committee to conduct a study.
On Tuesday, the Recreation and Parks Commission met with the Skate Park Commission to review data that has been collected throughout the last year.
In summary, Recreation and Parks Assistant Director Susan Petito presented the Ocean Bowl Skate Park was open a total of 323 days during 2013.
In January, February, and March, the park is open from 9:30 a.m. to dark, which has been around 5:30 or 6 p.m., on the weekends and days off of school, and the park is open from 2 p.m., to prepare for when school lets out around 3 p.m., to dark on weekdays. However, the park is closed on Wednesdays.
In April, the park is open from 9:30 a.m. to dark on the weekends and days off of school and open at 2 p.m. until dark on the weekdays but is open on Wednesdays.
In May, the park is open at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekends and days off school and open at 11:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays.
In June, July and August, the park opens at 9:30 a.m. until dark daily, and in September and October returns to opening at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekends and days off school, and opens at 11:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays.
In November and December, the park was open at 9:30 a.m. until dark on the weekdays and days off school and opened at 2 p.m. until dark on weekdays, and returns to being closed on Wednesdays.
According to the report, there were 10,329 visits to the Ocean Bowl in 2013, showing daily attendance averaging nearly 31 skaters per day.
The skate operation brought in a total of $55,194 in revenue made up from pass visits, pad rentals, product sales and numerous camps and programs. Additionally, the park received a donation of $1,000 from the Elks Lodge to help show support for its continued operation.
Total staff hours equaled 5,361 for a wage expense of $64,576. Petito noted that staff members are not only responsible for the supervision of the skate park, but they also teach lessons, support scheduled programs and competitions, and support and protect the entire two-block area that encompasses the Downtown Recreation Complex.
The report furthered, per Councilman Dennis Dare’s request, the staff members at the Ocean Bowl have begun to track the departure time of each participating skater so that an estimate of skater hours spent in the park may be determined on a daily basis.
From Thursday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 9, the park has been open 17 days, 16 for which skater time in the park was collected. During those 16 dates, 227 skaters were in the park for a total of 639.5 hours, showing that skaters stay in the park an average of a little over two and half hours per day during the cold weather months.
“Since last year, the skate park has saved about $20,000. Dave [Messick, Ocean Bowl Manager] has done a really great job in tightening up his staffing,” Petito said.
In 2012, the Ocean Bowl cost $95,000 while in 2013 it cost $75,000 to operate.
“We are really trying to squeeze and tighten it up down there, while also keeping a good staff that is going to be there 12 months because we have a lot of shoulder programs, camps and lessons, that aren’t just in the summer, and I need a group of guys that want to be there and also look out for the budget. It’s tough,” Messick said.
The commission will review additional data collected from the most recent months at the next meeting in March, including the number of skate park users during the week versus the weekend, and the Skate Park Committee will reconvene in April prior to prepare for budget discussions.
Anne Cook, whose family uses the skate park on a regular basis, asked what the commission was looking for in moving forward that will make a difference.
“Just have the same attendance during the day on weekdays that you do on weekends to show it is being used,” Dare said. “I just don’t know if the taxpayers can afford to have a facility open for one person or five people to show up on any given day.”