Noel Towell June 12, 2012
The cost of maintaining crumbling infrastructure at Exhibition Park has been partly blamed for another dismal financial performance by the ageing showground this year.
EPIC is expected to slump to a loss of more than $1 million in the 2011-12 financial year and the park's major shareholder - the ACT government - has been warned the ''declining condition'' of its facilities is a risk to the long-term viability.
Despite a better-than-expected performance this year in attracting major events, defined as those with more then 500 patrons attending, EPIC Corporation's statement of intent shows a projected loss of $1.052 million for 2011-12.
The park's management expects to stay in the red for the next four years, predicting annual losses between $900,000 and $1 million until 2015-16. The statement also warns that EPIC will be seeking government funding to finance the work to upgrade its facilities, vital if the showground is to continue to attract quality events.
EPIC says it is hosting more than 1.3 million visitors at its events each year, 235,000 of whom came from interstate and this year it will host 85 ''major'' events, beating its target of 80, according to the report. But management is worried about the effect changing economic conditions might have on the events market. ''A decline in the economic conditions in the market may result in few sales and EPIC's inability to be viable in the long term,'' the statement says.
''The declining condition of EPIC's facilities may mean that it is unable to attract significant, high-yield events and therefore suffers a decline in revenue and repeat bookings.''
The park's management has blamed the operating deficit this year on the cost of maintaining EPIC to a standard expected by the events market. ''The expenses that are necessary for the management of EPIC result in an operating deficit,'' the report says. ''There are expectations of increased levels of capital expenditure over the next five years to ensure the continued upkeep of EPIC's building and facilities to improve the efficiency and appearance of buildings, and to identify the targeted development of new facilities.
''Funding will be sought from the government subject to fiscal capacity over times.''
In the short term, the government has provided $526,000 for a refurbishment of the 20-year-old conference centre and Parkes Room. There will also be a ''maintenance program for the site to ensure buildings and grounds are maintained to an appropriate standard'', according to the statement.
EPIC's management says it will also ''continue to upgrade ageing infrastructure through its annual capital works budget''. The park will also try to expand its commercial operations in its efforts to stay viable and boost its income from its camping and caravan park. Management says EPIC must continue to develop a niche in the tourism accommodation market as a ''low budget'' option for visitors to EPIC's events, school, sporting groups and the touring public''.