By Jamal Melancon
City Park’s capital expenditures have reduced by nearly $300,000 this year, though officials are still fighting to get state and city funding after denial from the City Planning Commission.
Capital expenditures decreased from $840,000 to $550,000 for the 2017 fiscal year, according to the park’s monthly budget statement. The $550,000 is allocated for capital improvement projects.
Bob Becker, City Park CEO, said there is still not enough funding for emergencies like water leaks and utilities improvements for a facility operating at City Park’s large and complex size. The park is almost entirely self funded and is entering its eighth year in a row receiving no general state funding, Becker said.
“We generate enough operating money to operate the park to have everything really good and receive all the good press we’ve received in the last couple of years,” Becker said. “What we don’t generate money for for capital replacement in the park, so I just wanted to point out that this is a trend that’s not going in the right direction for us.”
Becker told the board that renovations and repairs made after Hurricane Katrina are now deteriorating while the park is heading in a direction where it can’t financially address its capital needs. He said eventually public support projects may be necessary because City Park doesn’t want to be in the position it was prior to Hurricane Katrina – when the park did not have enough funding for improvements.
“One of the reasons that the park got into difficulty before Katrina was that we sucked every penny we could off the golf courses because we had no other money,” Becker said.
Park officials asked City Council to dedicate about $25 million over five years to repair roadways, install sidewalks and improve sewerage. The first, billed at $21.7 million, is meant to improve stormwater runoff in and around the park. The three-year project would widen and deepen some of the park’s lagoons that serve as runoffs, with most of the first year spent on engineering work.
The park was not granted city funds for these – or any – projects last year. There are no funds for any of the park’s requests in this year’s budget, either.
Becker said that in 2005, tennis was a “net income loser,” which is much different than how it operates now.
“There was no other way to generate money, but as a result we were unable to reinvest and unable to have any operating reserve.”
Currently, golf’s marketing by City Park is only beginning to ramp up. Becker said it will take time to build of solid community of gulf outings and tournaments for the sport.
City Park is almost entirely self-funded. The city contributes a few thousand dollars a year to the public space, but everything else is funded through private donations, fundraising efforts or money-making elements of the park. The new course is meant to help pay for the rest of the park’s operations, Becker said.
“The gobs of money that will come off this course is going back into the community,” he said.
Bayou District Foundation will completely manage both golf courses for up to 35 years. Four percent of gross revenues from the park will go to the Foundation as a management fee, as well as reimbursement for employee costs and expenses, Becker said.
Unlike prior to Hurricane Katrina, City Park’s budget allows them the option to put money in their reserve fund for golf. They said at the meeting that they expect gulf revenue in the next year to increase by $4 million, increasing from around $16 million to $20 million.