Parks paying off for city

Posted Monday, Mar. 31, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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The chance the city took when it committed to long-term partnerships that brought Big League Dreams and Hawaiian Falls to Mansfield seems to be paying off. And not only by putting visitors in restaurant booths and hotel beds, but funneling cash directly into city coffers.

Hawaiian Falls’ total revenue-sharing contribution to the city topped the $1 million mark after last year’s summer season at the park, which opened in 2008.

Big League Dreams, which also opened in 2008 next door to the water park on Heritage Parkway and Texas 360, has produced nearly $500,000 for the city during a lease agreement that didn’t require revenue-sharing payments until 2011.

“We’re booked every weekend for the rest of the year, except for a couple of weekends in August,” said Tony Shipman, sports director for Big League Dreams, which has eight miniature major-league stadiums for year-round use by softball and baseball leagues. The second season of the year is getting under way for softball on the diamonds and soccer and flag football in the the complex’s large indoor pavilion.

Paid attendance last year was a record 276,223 people, a 10 percent increase over its 2012 turnout. The sports complex hosted 1,381 league teams last year, a 10 percent increase over 2012, while revenues at its two restaurants jumped 15 percent.

General manager Brad Brewer said the operation is still feeling the benefits of installing artificial turf in the stadium infields in 2011. The $1.3 million project, funded jointly with the city, all but eliminated rain-outs. Bad weather forced cancellation of 73 games in 2009 and 62 in 2010. Last year, only four days were lost to rain and four more to ice.

The park’s weather-proofing has proved to be a magnet for out-of-town baseball and softball leagues.

“I want to say it’s still the turf and the fact that it has become known that the chances of getting rained out here are minimal,” Brewer said.

Both Big League Dreams and Hawaiian Falls work within similar public-private partnerships. The city owns both facilities and leases them to the businesses under 40-year contacts, with two five-year options. Each business is required to to pay a 5 percent revenue-sharing fee based on gross revenues.

Hawaiian Falls’ contract with the city didn’t call for revenue-sharing payments to begin until the 2014 season unless the park hit its $2.2 million revenue sooner, which it did, in just its first summer of operation, and triggered the payments.

The rate for Hawaiian Falls, though, was renegotiated up to 6.5 percent after the 2012 summer season, which featured $3 million worth of new rides and attractions funded mostly by the city, said Shelly Lanners, the city director of community services.

The improvements helped the Mansfield water park draw 208,182 customers that summer and become the first of Hawaiian Falls’ four parks at the time to top the 200,000-admission threshold.

Hawaiian Falls has five parks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, a new one in Waco and construction under way on a seventh in Pflugerville, north of Austin.

The Mansfield park’s record-breaking turnout in 2012 also generated its largest payment to the city so far, more than $297,000. Last year’s payment was a little smaller at $287,000, but it was enough to reach $1 million overall, with $2,970 to spare.

Randall Hudson, general manager of the Mansfield water park, wasn’t quick to attribute the turnout to a natural reduction after a record year. It mostly came down to weather.

“In July, we had a bad five-day stretch that put a hurt on our numbers,” he said. But he added that the park, which averages about 2,000 patrons daily, shut down only one of those days, when about 100 people showed up. “Unfortunately, we run an outdoor venture and the weather didn’t cooperate.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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