(March 14, 2014) Discussions at this week’s Recreation and Parks Commission meeting indicated that the Ocean Bowl Skate Park may be out of any peril it was in.
Despite questions last month as to whether the skate park’s visitorship and income were justifying its expense, the commission gave a much more positive review this week of recent data from the city-owned facility.
“I think the numbers for February are pretty good,” said Councilman Dennis Dare. “People are using it, which is what we wanted to find out.”
Further, Dare noted, the city is still aiming to work with Worcester County on plans to expand the facility.
“It’s demonstrated its support, and hopefully we can move forward with the county,” Dare said.
Increased scrutiny of the park came after last year’s budget dispute on reducing the park’s winter hours. The idea was eventually canned, although the city continued to collect attendance and expense data. As late as last month, Dare and others were still questioning whether the park was justified in maintaining its current schedule.
Although the park lost roughly $20,000 last year, it was able to halve its losses from 2012 by reducing staffing costs by $20,000.
Further, data compiled by Assistant Director of Recreation and Parks Susan Petito shows that the park’s staffing costs for January and February of this year were only $7,745.50. The park nearly made up this entire cost in admissions revenue, most of which came from the sale of annual passes to local clientele over the past two months.
The city’s capital improvement plan still calls for $548,000 in borrowing for 2015 to expand the skate park, as well as another $2.5 million for a greater “downtown recreation complex” in the surrounding area between Third and Fourth Streets.
However, the land currently housing the skate park, playground, and sports fields which would be used for the projects is actually owned by Worcester County and leased by the city.
The town would likely be unable – or unwilling – to secure financing for the improvement unless a long-term agreement or sale could be reached with the county.