Jan 252017

An oyster installation was part of an underwater-themed, Sea-Labration display, in the botanical gardens of City Park for Celebration in the Oaks 2015. (Zach Brien, MidCityMessenger.com)

By Claire Byun

City Park’s annual Celebration in the Oaks pulled in more revenue last year compared to several years prior.

The 2016 event, which runs from the Friday before Thanksgiving the New Years Day, generated more than $2 million for the mostly-self-funded park. City Park’s Board of Directors reviewed the earnings during their regular meeting Tuesday afternoon, and park CEO Bob Becker said most people has positive comments about last year’s event.

“By and large I think people had very good experience,” Becker said.

Park officials recorded 161,695 paid visitors to the 2016 event, which pulled in $2,832,620 for the park. The 2015 Celebration in the Oaks raised about 5 percent less funds, though the most recent celebration pulled in 6 percent more people.

New Orleans saw about three days of inclement weather during the event, though park officials budgeted for five rain closures. The prosperous event made up for a budget deficit accrued during the first half of the fiscal year.

City Park’s revenue shortfall for July and August was about $258,000, but cost-cutting measures nipped that deficit to approximately $82,000, according to CFO Kevin Cox. Heavy rain on summer weekends contributed to the park’s revenue loss, which meant less business for the amusement park and concession stands.

Becker said the park subsidized some costs after July’s regular showers, which saved about $176,486 over two months. Admission, ticket sales and school night rentals were down this year because of the weather, and rain kept many people away during the daytime, Cox said.

However, Celebration in the Oaks – along with a generally busy December – basically made up that defect, Becker said. The park is fundamentally operating on budget at this point, Becker said, though he’s hoping the Louisiana Legislature doesn’t cut City Park funding this year.

“Last year the Legislature cut our budget, which is hard to sustain, so hopefully they don’t do that again this year,” he said.

Park officials made an effort to direct people to attend Celebration in the Oaks on a less-busy weekday rather than a weekend, which can see thousands of people. Staff used social media to tell people there’s a shorter wait in line and better access to concessions and entertainment during a weekday.

Staff used social media rather than offer discount tickets or offers so revenue would remain neutral, Becker said.

“We were able to get a little migration without having to do anything that could impact the revenue of the event,” Becker said.

Edmund Schrenk, board member, added that the park’s train drove about $200,000 of the overall revenue.

“It’s very efficient – you’ve got to stand in line and get your numbers, but it’s very nice,” he said.

Park staff added a new – and revenue earning – treat to last year’s event: marshmallows on a stick. People could purchase two marshmallows for $1 during the event, and park staff provided a fire to roast them.

Next year, Becker joked that folks should look out for S’mores on a stick.

“But that seems a little more technical,” he said.

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