From today's Roanoke Times:
What's in store for Explore?What's not mentioned is the number of little kids who are bused to the park en masse on field trips each day. Half of those 20,000? Were there any honest-to-God tourists among those 20,000?
By Cody Lowe
The Virginia Recreational Facilities Authority, the quasi-governmental agency that operates Explore Park, held its quarterly meeting at the park Tuesday.
This year, Virginia provided $200,000 and Roanoke County kicked in $300,000 of the park's $850,000 operating budget.
The historic area of the park, run by 16 full-time employees and set up as a living history museum featuring exhibits on 17th through 20th century Virginia, drew just fewer than 20,000 visitors last year, Executive Director Debbie Pitts reported. (link)
In any case, you can quickly run the numbers and determine that 16 full-time employees cater to 54 visitors a day. At a cost of $42 per visitor. Why not send them up to DC to the opera? It'd be more cost-effective.
So how is it that city and county planners allow this to continue? The answer is in the snake oil:
This guy thinks big. And to a gullible, clueless, idealess quasi-government board with money to burn, it's just the kind of pie-in-the-sky music they want to listen to. 1,800 workers. Why not 40,000?
Larry Vander Maten is convinced there is a market for a revamped living history experience at Explore Park that would draw between 1,000 and 2,000 visitors a day and eventually employ as many as 900 full-time and 900 seasonal workers.
Well, my calculator can do big numbers too. If it costs $850,000 for 16 employees to run Explore Park today ($53,125 per), Vander Maten's 1,800 employees - if his scheme goes as planned - will require an operating budget of $95,625,000. Just how much prosperity can Roanoke afford?
For that kind of tax money, I think you should all ask for opposite-sex massages. If you are going to pay dearly and get screwed, you ought to at least be able to walk away feeling like you got something out of the deal.