The 525-acre park opened in June 2018 at 6450 FM 2243 and features hiking trails, an equestrian arena and event center. It is the only city park in Georgetown that charges visitors entrance fees.
Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly Garrett presented first-year data to City Council at the Nov. 12 workshop.
Initially 75% of park visitors were nonresidents, with that number shifting to 70% as the year progressed, Garrett said.
“A lot of them are coming from our extraterritorial jurisdiction and our surrounding communities due to where the park is located,” she said. “In just a few short years I’m sure [the park] will be surrounded by homes. There will be a lot more development down Leander Road, so a lot more residents.”
Keeping the splash pad open for extended dates compared to other area splash pads is one tactic to draw visitors, Garrett said. It is open March 1 through Oct. 31.
The budget was set in summer 2017 with fiscal year 2019 expenses projected at $948,290 and actual expenses coming in at $777,412. The projected revenue was $500,000 with actual revenue at $379,813.
The expense recovery of 48.9% was higher than the national average for parks and recreation agencies, which is about 35%, Garrett said.
The Garey House rental venue hosted 55 events in fiscal year 2019, which was a good number considering it did not open until late 2018, Garrett said.
“Usually this type of venue is booked at least a year out,” she said. "Introductory pricing was used for the first few months to achieve initial rentals and receive feedback. There are 39 bookings for 2020 so far.”
Challenges to consider include the fact the house holds about 130-150 people and it is a seasonal venue—people want to get married in the spring or fall—there are not a lot of July weddings outside, Garrett said.
Rates to rent the house increased in 2019 and will increase in 2020 to keep up with the market and venue demand, and 2021 pricing is under review, Garrett said. Fees vary and are available online.
The entrance fee to the park is $5 for residents and $10 for nonresidents for a vehicle of up to two people. Each additional person is $2. Staff are currently discussing several potential fee-change ideas, including charging residents less during the offseason or lowering all fees to see if that results in an increase in overall attendance thus profit.
The park offers free admission on Tuesdays, originally from Sept. 1 through the end of May, Garrett said, adding the free day created a lot more work than anticipated.
Free Tuesdays were revised and now occur Oct. 1-March 31 to alleviate traffic issues and the extra staffing required on those days, Garrett said.
The item was presented to council for informational purposes only.