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Sales at Wetlands suffer

A wet and cooler-than-usual summer is being blamed for dried up sales at Wetlands Water Park this year, marking at least the second year in a row the town-owned water park has seen a drop in its earnings.
“The rain was a real momentum buster. There was never really any momentum,” said Matt Townsend, park director. “This year was a little worse than last year, too, because we saw a lot of colder temperatures.”
In fact, the opening weekend of the Wetland season — Memorial Day weekend — was so much cooler than normal that Townsend said the water park did one-third of the business it typically does that initial weekend.
The park was also forced to close due to rain for approximately 12 days out of the 90 days it was scheduled to be open, which certainly contributed to the drop in sales. Last year, it closed for seven days and in 2011, for three days.
Overall, Townsend said the park saw $400,000 in sales this year, a significant drop from last year’s $545,000. In 2011, the facility brought in $575,000 in sales.
Daily admission was down 29 percent on the year, according to Townsend’s report to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, while the sale of season passes also saw a double-digit reduction. Rental of the park saw a 17 percent decline and concession sales dropped by 27 percent.
While weather may be one of the reasons for the lower numbers, the opening of an aquatic center in Kingsport this year may also have had something to do with the deflated figures.
While Townsend said it is “hard to tell” just how much the new center impacted Wetlands’ bottom line, he had expected to see about a 10 percent decrease in sales from it.
Even as the season has come to a close, the new Kingsport Aquatic Center is in the forefront of Townsend’s mind as he begins making plans for next summer and ways to improve sales.
“We’re definitely looking at a new feature or two to put in. The park has been the same for a long time,” he said. “You gotta change it up, especially when the competition moves in.”
Townsend, who took over as park director in December 2011, is hoping such improvements will draw bigger crowds to the facility.
“You can’t do anything about the weather,” he said. “What you can do is get the best possible products out there for when we are able to be open. It’s about maximizing the days you are open.”