The cold, wet spring that made 2013 a disastrous year for city-owned golf courses has led to a banner year for Edina's Edinborough Park.
If current attendance patterns hold, at the end of the year the city-owned indoor park will turn a profit for the first time in its 26-year history. Those strong finances are due to the weather and cost-cutting, said Ann Kattreh, the city's parks and recreation director.
"It was a good year for the indoor park industry, because we didn't have a spring," Kattreh said. "Normally we slow down in April and May, but we were going gangbusters in June."
This year's strong financial performance is an about-turn for the park. Just last year, city officials discussed making big changes at Edinborough to try to cut expenses and boost revenues. At the time, the park was recouping only about 70 percent of its $1.6 million annual operating cost.
The park, which opened in 1987, was the first city-owned attraction of its kind in the region. The acre-sized, enclosed park is a popular cold-weather destination for parents looking for a warm place where little kids can run and play. There's a multi-story climbing and play area, a 250-seat amphitheater and trails to wander. The junior Olympic-sized pool is popular with seniors for water aerobics, and walkers and joggers circle on a second-floor track.
Last year, the City Council discussed changes that included major remodeling and closing the swimming pool. Seniors campaigned to save the pool, and the council decided to try some less dramatic changes to raise revenue.
Ticket prices for some attractions were increased. Though the park's junglelike feeling had become its trademark — it originally was planted with 10,000 trees and plants that had been shipped on 14 semitrailer trucks from Florida — by last year some of the trees were touching the towering ceiling and had to be braced to stay upright.
Trees and other big plants were removed, and a full-time horticulturist position was eliminated. The grotto area in the lower level was filled in, and a big waterfall that needed constant maintenance was replaced by a new and smaller one that uses less water and less energy.
The changes saved about $100,000. But there have been investments in the park, too.
In the grotto area, stairs were eliminated, making the area handicapped-accessible for the first time. In the spaces where gardens were removed, the city will display public art and hold events.
The pool, which was showing its age, was resurfaced. Next year, the locker rooms will be renovated, and in January expensive metal-halide bulbs will be changed over to LED lights.
"Swapping those out will make a significant financial difference," Kattreh said.
A new contract with the Edina Swim Club, which has made the Edinborough pool its home facility, also has boosted the bottom line.
'Knocking on wood'
Kattreh said the city is trying to market the park more to Edina residents and is looking for ways to improve and update attractions like Adventure Peak, the park's climbing playground.
"We're always trying to keep that fresh," she said.
At the end of October, the park was $31,000 in the black. Kattreh said she was "holding her breath" and hoping the trend holds through the end of the year.
"I'm knocking on wood," Kattreh said. "The park has never made an operating profit before. … Regardless of what happens, we'll do really well."