Evergreen Park’s activities have increased substantially over the last year, creating potential to bring in more revenue, park representatives said in a presentation to county council.
One reason for the new activity: Renovations were completed last November on Clarkson Hall, thanks to a federal Canada150 grant and money from the County, said Dan Gorman, the park’s general manager. The hall used to have just one event a year – the farm family banquet. Now 35 events are booked for 2017.
Although the park is still carrying $4.7 million in debt, that’s left over from building facilities such as the ENTREC Centre and the casino, and from work done on the track. They’ve been steadily paying it down and haven’t added any additional long-term debt in the last few years, Gorman said.
“We’re pleased to recognize that five years ago we were over $8 million in long-term debt and we’ve been able to pay that down to 4.7 in 2016.”
Gorman said they’re proud they were able to maintain the facilities and renovate Clarkson Hall and the Drysdale arena despite the downturn.
The park’s operations budget is $6 to $7 million. In 2017 to date, revenues are at $1.8 million and expenses are $1.6 million. That’s a little above the budgeted revenue and a little below budgeted expenses, said finance chair Bridget Hennigar.
“We’re quite happy with the progress we’ve made to date,” she said, adding they’re working on new ways to generate revenue, such as more events. Some examples:
More paint nights are being held at the Pines Restaurant and a new 50-seat family restaurant has opened under the grandstand.
They’re also looking to have more corporate training there during the day time. “We want to utilize that whole park 24-7,” Hennigar said.
Three new user groups have approached the park about potentially having events there: The Grande Prairie Polo Club, the disc golf club and indigenous groups who are looking at the park as a venue for an annual pow wow and other events.
Gorman said the board is considering asking the user groups to provide support in maintaining the park. This could mean a fee or simply asking the groups to donate volunteer hours. The park board will be meeting with user groups to discuss it, Gorman said.
Close to 500,000 visitors come to the park every year, spending $9.4 million. The park’s overall impact on the region is $43 million, more than 90% of which is spent within the City of Grande Prairie, Gorman said.
The numbers come from an independent economic impact study that was done for regional ag societies across Alberta.