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Report: changes in park rental picture

Revenue from the city’s park rental facilities was down slightly in 2019, due mostly to the way in which a major venue rental was handled.

The city collected a bit more than $191,000 in rental fees in 2019 from sites in Madison Avenue Central Park and Warren Riverview Park. It was $206,000 in 2018.

The figures are part of the Derby Public Library’s 2019 annual report. The library and its staff have charge of the city’s park rental spaces.

Library Director Eric Gustafson said the decline can be traced to a change in operations as the new rule is to limit Central Park to one wedding a weekend.

What had been happening is that there would be a wedding on a Saturday and in order to prepare the facility for the next rental, a staff person would have to go on-site late in the night or early morning for a cleaning inspection and prepare the site.

They had been using a person from Public Works to help, but Gustafson said he wants to be more reasonable with city resources.

Weddings a big part of rentals

“Because of changes in staffing and procedure, that changed the revenue,” he said. “No more back-to-back events from Thursday to Sunday.”

In 2019, Central Park brought in $148,000 in revenue and Warren Riverview $43,000.

At The Venue in Central Park, there were 165 total site rentals, down from 192 in 2018.

That building has proven popular with two specific market segments: weddings or big community events. 

Other spaces in the park were rented 13 times, down from 19 in 2018.

Most of those spaces, such as the open-air shelter, are available on a first-come, first-served basis and people usually don’t rent them unless they have a specific event, he said.

The Pavilion building at Central Park was rented 99 times, up from 68 in 2018. Half of that was due to a rental agreement with BNI, a business networking group, which used it 49 times. It meets almost every Thursday morning.

BNI moved over to the Pavilion because there was a move to cut down on small internal space rentals at The Venue.

The Lodge has a niche market

The combination rental of The Venue and Pavilion decreased, going from 23 rentals in 2018 to six in 2019.

Rentals at the Lodge, the only enclosed building at Warren Riverview, did quite well, Gustafson said. There were 132 rentals there. Also, there were eight rentals of the open shelter.

There were only 22 park rentals in 2018, but that is not a complete comparison as it opened that fall.

The Lodge has worked well, he said, because of its size – it holds about 60 – its weekend price point of $400, and its location, with a view of the river.

“It’s a good size and a good price,” he said.

Weekdays are half the price, at $200. Gustafson said “we’re not scaring people off” with the price point. However, as with Central Park, weekends – especially Saturdays – is where the demand is.

The Lodge has hosted baby showers, retirement and birthday parties, and some small weddings.

Cleaning is not an issue at The Lodge, because renters are in charge of straightening up and Gustafson said they have been doing a good job of that.

Derby student gets her wish at surprise luau

When second-grader Brooklynn Dodge donned a lei and sunglasses and sat down in the El Paso Elementary School gym for an assembly on Jan. 31, she had no idea she was about to be the center of attention.

After all the school’s students, wearing sunglasses and leis, had filed in and were sitting on the floor, Principal Carla Schartz called Brooklynn to the front of the room. Her classmates counted down from five, then yelled: “Surprise, you’re going to Hawaii.”

Brooklynn, 9, diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, had been granted her wish to swim with the dolphins in Hawaii by Make-A-Wish® Missouri & Kansas, and the Hawaiian luau was arranged as the wish reveal.

Sonia Bries, Derby, a volunteer Wish Granter for Make-A-Wish® Missouri & Kansas, worked with the Dodge family on Brooklynn’s wish and the reveal.

“For us [volunteer wish granters] I think this is the best part of the process … taking little bits and pieces of the child’s favorite things and making the wish reveal unique to them,” Bries said. “The best part by far was Brooklynn’s jumping up and down and her pure joy when we revealed her wish was coming true.”

Brooklynn’s mother Melissa Dodge said they had initially talked about doing just a classroom party for the reveal, “but then Sonia came back and said they had raised enough money to do the whole school.”

Dodge said she managed to keep it a secret not only from Brooklynn but from her three brothers – one in middle school, one who also goes to El Paso, and a younger one.

“I did have to tell my older son about the reveal since I was picking him up from middle school, but he didn’t know where it would be or what was going to happen, and my youngest was with me and he didn’t know anything.

“They have computers at El Paso and when I was in the office before the assembly, I got an email from my son,” Dodge said. “He had snapped a picture from his computer of himself in a lei and sunglasses and wrote ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but how do you like my new look? We’re having an assembly, talk to you later.’ He had no idea,” she laughed.

Brooklynn’s wish evolved from her love of water, according to her mother.

Brooklynn Dodge

“She had a tracheotomy for five years, so her access to water was very limited for a long time,” Dodge said. “She would talk a lot about all things water, like ‘I can’t wait to go to the beach,’ and ‘I wish I were a mermaid.’”

She said Brooklynn was five-and-a-half before she went into a swimming pool, but “as soon as we put her in water, she loved every bit of it. She’s in the water all the time and has been doing swim lessons.

“When she asked about going to the beach, we started talking about what she would do at the beach, and then it kind of segued into ‘I want to swim with the dolphins.’”

The family – including brothers Lucas, Jackson and Jason – will spend about a week on Oahu at a hotel on Waikiki. In addition to fulfilling Brooklynn’s wish at Sea Life Park Dolphin Encounter, the family is planning excursions to Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.

“I don’t even have to go there to know I’m going to have a good time – it’s Hawaii,” Brooklynn said.

Make-A-Wish® is the nation’s largest wish-granting organization. It has fulfilled wishes of more than 315,000 children in the United States and territories since 1980. Headquartered in Phoenix, Make-A-Wish serves every community in the United States, Guam and Puerto Rico through its 60 chapters.

Make-A-Wish® Missouri & Kansas serves every community in Missouri and Kansas and has fulfilled wishes of more than 8,800 children with critical illnesses since 1983.

Medically eligible children:

· Have been diagnosed with a progressive, degenerative or malignant condition that has placed the child’s life in jeopardy;

· Are older than 2-1/2 and younger than 18 (at the time of referral);

· Have not received a wish from another wish-granting organization.