Conneaut Lake Park makes Mark Turner smile a little more these days as the bankrupt amusement park is starting to make money on its operations. But Turner cautions there still is a long way to go.
"I'm more optimistic than where we've been before," said Turner, executive director of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit corporation that oversees park operations. "This is a question of whether operations can be run on a self-supporting basis and the answer is yes."
The current group of Trustees was put in place by Crawford County Court of Common Pleas in June 2014 after the previous volunteer group resigned. The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General had filed a petition in county court seeking to oust the old board, citing its lack of fiduciary responsibility in protecting the park's assets, which are held as a public trust.
Turner said operations at the park — its amusement rides and water park, games, concessions and its camping facility — are showing profitability.
The park also is set to add to its water park on Aug. 6 when the two giant water slides and its kiddie pool area reopen, joining the lazy river water ride as water attractions, Turner said. Turner noted the lazy river water park had been averaging 200 people purchasing wristbands on Sundays, but July 10 it had 400 people get wristbands.
"What matters is cash," Turner said of park operations. "It costs us about $30,000 in cash every weekend to operate this park and right now we're generating about $50,000 in cash. That's a good thing."
"When we've got flat expenses (to operate), which is what we have, and we've got revenues which are increasing, we have increasing profitability, which is what we want to see. That helps pay payables (bills past due) that go way back."
Conneaut Lake Park previously had operating deficits for about 20 years, Turner said.
"It was costing them $50,000 a weekend to operate and only generating $30,000 revenue," Turner said. "We have literally turned that around. These creditors need to know we're that our (reorganization) plan is credible."
Turner quickly pointed out the operational turnaround is not because current Trustees are smarter than other previous operators.
"It's mostly because it's dwindled down to such a minimal activity it's relatively easy to go from there and expand out," he said.
While Conneaut Lake Park now is making money on its operations, it doesn't mean the park is profitable, Turner said.
In December 2014, Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection to reorganize the park's debts.
Trustees owes about $1.1 million in back real estate taxes, interest and penalties to Conneaut School District, Crawford County and Sadsbury and Summit townships and has debt with other creditors — both secured and unsecured including utilities such as Conneaut Lake Area Joint Municipal Authority.
According to Trustees' balance sheet for May, the latest report on file with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, the park's total liabilities are $4.8 million. That total includes $3.7 million in debt prior to filing for bankruptcy in December 2014 plus about another $1.1 million in debt accrued since filing for bankruptcy for attorney and other costs associated with the bankruptcy filing and readying the park itself.
Turner said the park has had to make investments — such as removing trees and adding fencing in the water park area to new pumps for the water park, which have added to the debt. But Turner noted those are not recurring costs.
"What we're having to do with bankruptcy court is we have to show those expenses as they occur," Turner said. "But if you take those out, we're making money operationally. A lot of those items are capital expenses and have a useful life."
Meanwhile, a hearing to confirm Trustees' Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan for the amusement park may happen by early fall.
At a hearing Thursday before Chief Judge Jeffrey Deller of U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Western Pennsylvania, attorneys for Trustees and its creditors said they were working toward a final draft of the plan with a disclosure statement to be presented to the court. A final draft of the disclosure statement is to be filed with the court by July 28. If the court approves the draft, a final confirmation hearing could be scheduled for August or September.
Under the proposed joint reorganization plan, Trustees will continue to sell off lakefront lots from what is known as the Flynn property this year and in 2017 to raise money to help settle the tax debt. The land is considered excess property and Trustees previously received court approval to sell two of the lots.
The plan also calls for Trustees to pay other secured non-tax claim creditors in quarterly installments beginning in April 2017 from operational revenue generated by the park and make continued capital improvements to the amusement park to increase its revenues.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Park's 2016 revenue topping 2015
Conneaut Lake Park's revenue has jumped markedly this year compared to the same period in 2015, according to figures from Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit corporation that oversees amusement park operations.
Total revenue for Conneaut Lake Park and Camperland is $328,161.18 through July 10 this year compared to $242,744.70 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $85,416.48 or 35 percent.
Sale of ride wristbands for Conneaut Lake Park are $124,658.65 through July 10 this year compared to $82,628.18 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $42,030.47 or 50.1 percent.
Camperland has generated $122,577.90 in revenue through July 10 this year compared to $93,557.06 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $29,020.84 or 31 percent.
The gift shop has generated $16,113.65 in revenue through July 10 this year compared to $7,179.73 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $8,933.92 or 124 percent.
Games and mini golf have generate $12,7954.44 in revenue through July 10 this year compared to $9,393.24 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $3,402.20 or 36.2 percent.
Concessions have generated $52,015.54 in revenue through July 10 this year compared to $49,986.49 through the same period in 2015. It's an increase of $2,029.05 or 4 percent.