City Eyes Ways To Increase Skate Park Revenue

OCEAN CITY – With almost a year to go until expansion of
Ocean City’s skate park is expected to be complete, members of the Recreation
and Park Committee sat down Tuesday morning to look at where the park stands
currently and what can be done in the coming months to prepare it for the busy
summer season.

According to Kate Gaddis, superintendent of recreation,
attendance at the park reached 9,383 visitors in 2006, a couple hundred shy of
2005’s attendance.

Even though the attendance was lower, Gaddis said the
revenue made in 2006 still exceeded 2005, reaching $77,437 compared to last
year’s $65,821. By selling more annual passes in 2006, Gaddis said she believes
that is the reason why revenue still managed to gain when attendance was down
since some annual pass holders did not use the park as much as in years past.

Revenue was not the only thing going up as expenses
followed suit reaching $83,068, making a deficit of $5,631 compared to last
year’s $8,845 deficit.

Gaddis went on to explain how skate camps were another
popular event last year. Beginning with a single camp in the summer of 2005,
she said the park offered more of these types of activities last year with even
more planned soon.

“There’s a lot of revenue to made in the area with
programs and right now there is only so much space to do it and we really
anticipate that we’re going to able to add programs this summer,” Gaddis said.

Last year, one two-week camp managed to book its registration
solid with 140 participants, a weekend clinic in the fall brought in 15 more,
and the spring and fall skate lesson series introduced the park to a total of
32 new skaters.

In order to reduce the deficit further in coming years,
committee members began to look at the rates being charged to park users for
both general use and participation in camps, since simply adding more programs
will not be effective considering park space is limited, restricting the use of
it for those not participating in the camps.

As of now, local residents pay a daily fee of $10 to skate
or $45 for an annual pass, where as nonresidents pay $90 for their pass.

Committee member Lloyd Martin said he agreed increasing
rates would help a bit, but it would not be the deal-breaker.

“You don’t want to go overboard by raising the rates too
high,” he said.

Fellow committee member Jim Hall agreed with Martin,
comparing the rates to that of what it costs to play miniature golf or going to
the movies.

“I think $10 is a fair price to keep kids occupied all
day,” he said, regarding keeping children and skaters off the streets and in a
more controlled environment.

Assistant Director of Recreation and Parks Susan Petito
said the city’s best bet was to look at annual fees.

“There’s room for improvement, but I think your annual
rates are very reasonable so that may be the best place to really look at
raising fees,” she said.

Other options looked at to raise revenue included the sale
of T-shirts and stickers, an endeavor that did well at first but steadily
declined in effectiveness over the years, according to Gaddis.

However, with an expansion on the horizon, members said
they think that would be a good time to revisit the retail aspect as a way to
entice customers to the new park, which is thought to be more aesthetically
pleasing than the current setup.

in this year’s fiscal budget was $20,000 to study the rehabilitation and
expansion of the skate park, the oldest operating facility in the country,
celebrating 30 years last summer. Eight years ago, the park was completely
reconstructed and renovated. The city is hoping to add a street course with the
expansion as well as grade-level riding.