Facility not close to breaking even on operations . . . . .
By Marty Finley
The Elizabethtown, KY Sports Park exceeded economic impact projections for its first year of operations, but one city official said he never expects the park to be a moneymaker.
The Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau had estimated a $7 million economic impact from the sports park’s first year, but Janna Clark, sports and sales director for the ETCB, said the number likely will close around $10 million.
Economic impact is money generated in a local community and is calculated based on a formula indicating how much single-day and overnight visitors typically spend in the city.
The park was used 92 days for contract events and tournaments in the first year, Park Director Seth Breitner said.
Sue Cundiff, who works with Comfort Suites, LaQuinta, Baymont Inn & Suites and Ramada Inn on Commerce Drive, said her properties are consistently booked up on weekends. During the Baseball Youth Nationals, some teams were forced to find hotel rooms in Bardstown, Louisville and Shepherdsville.
“We’ve been busy,” she said. “(The park) has had a large impact.”
Cundiff said the park has helped provide a boost to the hotels’ weekend numbers, one area in which they lagged.
Darrell Brenyas, general manager of Rafferty’s in Elizabethtown, said the restaurant only reaped a small benefit during the first few months of the park’s existence because the tournaments were smaller. But he has noticed a rise in patrons as the tournaments grow in size. A large group of 50 or more athletes came in around 10 p.m. Thursday after playing at the park, he said.
Brenyas said the city has been cooperative in contacting local restaurants and informing them of the size of the tournaments so they can be prepared for large groups.
“It makes a difference,” he said. “We need to know if it’s 20 teams or 100. So far, so good. We’ve been pleased.”
Breitner said the park has generated around $625,000 in revenue as of Thursday, including $315,000 in concessions, $120,000 in rentals and $185,000 in sponsorships.
“This is exactly what our expectations were going into year one and we are on target with where we plan to be as the Elizabethtown Sports Park continues to progress,” Breitner said in an email.
The city also attracted interest to the Miracle Field, which was designed for athletes with disabilities. Hardin County Special Olympics and TOPSoccer have used the field, he said.
According to the park’s rental agreement, field fees can run between $175 and $450 for full-day use and $125 and $275 for half-day use. An hourly lighting fee and additional field-related fees are factored in if applicable, according to the agreement.
In its first year, expenses to run the park outweigh revenue. Elizabethtown Finance Director Steve Park said the park has generated around $1.6 million in operational expenses for the first year, which includes more than $650,000 for wages and benefits; more than $400,000 for professional services such as maintenance and repairs, utilities and insurance; and more than $370,000 for materials and supplies, which includes food and concessions.
“Those expenses are inflated some because of the extensive watering we had to do last summer and the startup expenses related to such items as small ware for the concession stands, etc.,” Park said by email.
The city budgeted $1.5 million in expenses and around $700,000 of revenue for year two.
“I don’t think it will ever break even,” Park said of the facility’s ability to be profitable. But the city’s park system is designed to provide quality of life rather than produce money, he said.
“We’re not making a profit on any of the city’s recreational programs,” he said. “That’s not what they’re there for.”
The sports park and its financing became a point of contention for opponents who viewed the 2 percent restaurant tax being used to pay off construction as an illegal burden forced by Elizabethtown City Council through an improper classification of the city as a fourth-class municipality. Likewise, the park’s costs were perceived by many to be exorbitant.
The city authorized $28.5 million for construction and development financed through three series of bonds financed that mature in 2036. About $2,050,000 of the debt has been paid off, Park said.
Beyond its capacity to attract teams from across the country willing to spend millions in the city and surrounding communities, the park has been a job creator in its own right. Breitner said the park has around 11 full-time positions, nine seasonal turf and maintenance staff and roughly 50 part-time concessions and operations staff.
Hunter Martin, a sophomore at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, is a seasonal maintenance worker and was spending a humid day in his bare feet lining a soccer field at the park.
It is Martin’s first job and one catered to his interests because of his background in sports. A typical day involves a sundry list of chores from mowing to weed eating.
“It takes a lot to take care of them,” he said of the fields.
But Martin said the park is a beautiful facility that lends itself to a great work environment as he finishes school.
“It’s a good job,” he said. “It fits my needs well.”
First-year revenue figures
The Sports Park has generated over $625,000 in revenue in year one
$315,000 has been generated through concessions.
More than $185,000 has been generated through sponsorships.
$105,000 has been generated in direct revenue
$80,000 in operational expenses has been offset by sponsorships (HMH and Waste Management)
Several thousand dollars in rebates from Pepsi, Fischer’s, and Blue Bunny is still to come based on year 1 concession sales and contractual obligations.
$120,000 was generated through rentals.
- Full-time salary positions (4 positions)-$36,601 – $66,950 per year
These positions include: Director, Turf Manager/Maintenance Superintendent, Concessions/Operations Manager, Sports Leagues Coordinator
- Full-time hourly positions (7 positions) – $9.90 – $14.44 per hour
These positions include: 6 turf/maintenance positions and 1 administrative assistant position
- Seasonal Turf and Maintenance Staff (9 positions) – $8.50 – $10.00 per hour
- Seasonal Concessions and Operations Staff (50 positions) – $7.50 – $10.00 per hour
Source: Elizabethtown, KY – Sports Park Director – Seth Breitner