Sportsplex won’t turn profit, but pennies need pinching: Mayor
January 9, 2013
Bracebridge can’t realistically expect the Sportsplex to be profitable, but losing a large chunk of its customer base may necessitate a new approach to its finances, Mayor Graydon Smith says.
Smith said the town needs to look towards “right sizing” the Clearbrook Trail facility’s business model to fit its customer base, which drastically shrank in 2012 with the opening of the Gravenhurst Centennial Centre and new competition in the private sector. Over the past year, the culture and recreation department’s target market has dropped from 27,000 to about 16,000.
Historically, the first four months of the year have been the bread and butter of the facility’s annual membership earnings, with 40 per cent of membership fees for the year rolling in between January and the end of March. What worried council and staff in 2012, however, was that membership revenues in that time period fell short by $85,000 this past year.
By comparison, the membership revenue shortfall at the end of 2010 amounted to about $22,000, and about $8,000 in 2009. In 2008, the membership revenue shortfall was around $19,000, and about $32,000 in 2007.
“It was clear early in the year that we weren’t going to meet those projections,” said Smith. “If we’re going to be $85,000 short on a projection we’ll need to take some corrective measures and budget appropriately in 2013.”
Smith himself was quoted in a 2010 article as saying that the idea the Sportsplex could ever pay for itself is “a bit of a pipe dream.” However, he maintains that some adjustments may be necessary to address changing market trends.
“I don’t think anything has changed, I don’t think we’re expecting it to pay for itself. We always realize there’s going to be broad-based taxpayer costs to support recreation programs,” he said. “But what has changed (is) the number of available users we have in the marketplace. We can’t continue to act as though we have as many potential customers as we did.”
Council has remained divided over the past year over the future direction of the Sportsplex. Coun. Scott Young suggested that the facility look into targeting the youth market, while Coun. Lori-Lynn Giaschi-Pacini said she doesn’t want the facility duplicating programs and services already offered in other gyms. Smith himself floated the idea of job cuts to help control costs.
In early December, culture and recreation director Leo Broere tabled a report saying that the department will freeze wages for part-time staff, roll back costs for staff training and forgo the planned purchase of a new lifeguard chair to help control costs. His report also hinted at the possibility of new memberships for local college and university students, a changeup of hours at the Sportsplex, and possible fee increases for programs and vendors.
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