Poor economy and parked paddlewheeler hurt Heritage Park’s bottom line

Poor economy and parked paddlewheeler hurt Heritage Park’s bottom line

One of Calgary’s most popular attractions is poised to post a deficit for the first time in 54 years and officials say more funding is needed to keep exhibits open and park workers employed.

Officials at Heritage Park, in the city’s southwest, say losses could be as high as $1.3 million this year.

They say a number of factors are contributing to a variety of unbudgeted costs including; an increase in minimum wage, lost corporate sponsorships and the provincial carbon tax.

“Altogether it is causing us a very tough financial situation and in fact we are projecting the first deficit that we’ve ever had in 54 years, which certainly as the CEO doesn’t make me feel very good,” said Heritage Park’s CEO, Alida Visbach.

Attendance is down between 19 and 22 percent and annual passes have also dropped off this year.

“If we start closing down more exhibits and more programs, we’re going to get even less attendance, which means less revenue, so it’s just going to compound our problems, it is not a solution. We’ve already cut, we feel we’ve cut back as far as we possibly can without totally damaging our reputation as a museum as well as the service that we give to Calgarians,” said Visbach.

One of the park’s key attractions, the S. S. Moyie, has been docked over the last year because the water level in the Glenmore Reservoir has been too low for it to operate and officials say that has resulted in a loss of about $650,000 in revenue.

“I had to keep my three captains on because if I let them go I’d never get them back. It’s hard to get a sea captain in Calgary, funny that way, so we’ve actually kept them on and they’re actually working on the restoration of the Moyie. We had to do something with the Moyie this year because we can’t float it. We’re doing some remedial work on the hull and they are working on that,” said Visbach

Visbach says she is confident that the Moyie will be back in the water next year and that the crew will be able to compensate for any fluctuation in the water level in the reservoir.

She says fewer corporate parties are being booked because of tough economic times and that any more cuts to services could have major consequences.

“I think the city is sensitive to our plight, I think that they’re listening but they have many competing demands for funds here at the city,” she said. “I just hope that they and Calgarians see the value in what Heritage Park does in preserving our Canadian culture and heritage. I mean, as Canadians, this is something that we are very proud of and we can’t afford to lose our history.”

Visbach says they are strategizing to try and address some of the issues but tough decisions may have to be made in the months ahead.

“What next year looks like, that’s going to be an interesting exercise for us and we’ll do our best to keep our doors open.”

For more information on Heritage Park, click HERE.



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