With its first summer of operation coming to a close, the Cherokee County Aquatic Center in Holly Springs is reporting positive signs that it can pay its way, though some say it may be too early to tell.
Cherokee County Recreation and Parks Director Bryan Reynolds said as of July 23, the recreation center has brought in $445,452 dollars and spent $276,230 in operating expenses, showing a profit of $169,312. These figures do not include construction on the center, which cost the county $16 million and was paid for through the $90 million countywide parks bond.
Since the center opened its doors May 9, more than 49,000 people have come to enjoy its three pools, Reynolds said. He also said more than 2,700 have signed up for swimming lessons and other classes there.
Reynolds said although the center is still in its infancy, the numbers are encouraging.
“It’s very early in the process, but I’m very encouraged by the first three months of operations,” he said. “It’s off to a very busy and very good start.”
Cherokee County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens also said the numbers are encouraging.
“I’m delighted that it’s operating at capacity out of the box,” Ahrens said.
But Ahrens said it may be too early to put a finger on the pulse of the center as there are many factors at play, and it is yet to be seen how it will do when the county’s kids go back to school and colder weather sets in.
During the cold months of the year, the center is expected to see a reduction in revenues brought in by its outdoor pool, which as of July 23, had been visited by 25,110 swimmers, Reynolds said.
Commissioner Brian Poole, who represents District 3 where the aquatic center is located, also expressed concern about revenues dropping in the winter.
“I was excited to see those results so far,” Poole said. “I am also very cautious to get overly excited … I expect the winter months will probably drop somewhat.”
But Poole said he hopes the center finds a way.
“I have visited the facility a couple of times with my children, and we have enjoyed it,” Poole said. “I just hope and pray that the aquatic center will pay its own way and will not have to depend on county resources for operating capital.”
Cherokee Chief Financial Officer Janelle Funk said the potential drop of revenue in the colder months is something the county has taken into account.
“True, we will not have the revenues associated with the outdoor pool during those times, but several expenses will dramatically decrease as well,” Funk said. “For example, the bulk of the part-time staff budget is expended during the summer months because the outdoor pool requires a great many more (lifeguards).”
Funk added that more revenues are expected to come in from swim meets the aquatic center has scheduled, which will mostly take place during the school year.
Reynolds said the center has about 20 swim meets on the books for next year and a water polo event scheduled for September.
Within Cherokee County’s fiscal 2014 budget, which has not yet been approved by the Board of Commissioners, Reynolds said the monthly operating costs to be set aside for the aquatic center are about $90,000.
Funk said the fiscal 2014 budget projects revenues from the facility exceed its costs “just slightly.”
“Our intent was not to operate the aquatic center as a profit center, but rather to set admission and usage fees at rates that are affordable to our residents, while still recovering our costs,” she said. “I believe we are on track to do this.”
“I feel very good about where we are for the first few months,” he said.
“I’m confident that we’re going to do very well financially.”