Arena concession takes a hit

The concession at Strathcona Gardens is losing thousands of dollars a year

The concession at Strathcona Gardens lost thousands of dollars in each of the last three years as attendance at the recreation complex dwindled.

The Strathcona Gardens Commission, governed by the Strathcona Regional District, “has raised concerns about the costs to operate the Strathcona Gardens concession,” said Brian Reardon, regional district chief administrative officer.

“It is a service that is generally appreciated by the user groups and the general public. Unfortunately, from 2009 to 2011, the concession has been losing money.”

Last year the concession lost $22,043 while in 2010 the loss was $18,131 and in 2009 the concession lost $11,291.

In 2011 the concession made $1112,783 in sales but paid out $83,554 in wages and $51,272 to suppliers for food.

Reardon said the shortfalls could be blamed on the pool closure, the change in menu items, and a rise in labour, material and delivery costs.

The concession has a mandate to operate at a no net loss.

To help balance the books, the regional district incorporates sales from vending machines when calculating the total revenues for the concession.

Last year the two vending machines at Strathcona Gardens combined generated $16,327 in sales while in 2010 vending sales were $8,656 and in 2009 sales were $13,874.

Yves Bienvenu, manager of facilities at Strathcona Gardens, said it can be difficult for the concession to turn a profit because it relies on user groups.

“As a complementary service, the concession is almost exclusively dependent upon the number of customers participating in arena and swimming activities,” Bienvenu said.

“One reason why revenues are in a downward trend is the surprisingly low profit margin set out in terms of trying to stay competitive with the outside market. One could also make the argument that there are many users of the facility who either refuse to buy from the concession or smuggle outside food and drink into the arena.”

Bienvenu said in September that the drop in concession sales could also be connected to a drop in pool attendance from 43,621 in 2008 to 25,813 in 2010 as well as dwindling attendance at Storm games.

“Over the past three years the Storm hockey club has either not made the playoffs or has exited very quickly and attendance has reflected their performance by going from full houses to barely half full,” Bienvenu said.

The concession, which employs two full-time and four to five part-time seasonal employees, recently introduced healthly food options but Bienvenu said the more wholesome menu items have not increased sales or profits as hoped.

Ice and pool user groups will meet in late spring at which time a review of concession operations will be presented.

Bienvenu said the regional district will ask for feedback and suggestions as to the operation of the concession at that time.

The concession operates from September to March and opens for the occasional tournament in April.

The concession also provides food services for spring and summer events such as the circus, the home show and aquaculture show.

The concession is open Monday through Thursday from 3:30-8:30 p.m. as well as Friday nights for Storm games and weekends from 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m.