Janesville turns a profit at park concession stands

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Marcia Nelesen
Friday, January 3, 2014

JANESVILLE--Janesville's recreation department made money in 2013 running its park concession stands, and Director Shelley Slapak hopes it can make even more in coming years.

The city cleared about $8,000 on concessions in 2013. That's about what the city received from a private concession company in 2012, she said.

The city in 2013 had about $5,000 in one-time expenses Slapak doesn't anticipate in future years. Those purchases included popcorn machines, nacho and pretzel warmers, a snow cone machine, a beer cooler and refrigerators.

The contracted concession operator had supplied that equipment.

The city also spruced up its three concession stands by deep cleaning, painting and installing cabinets, Slapak said.

Concessions are sold in Palmer Park at the east pavilion by the wading pool, at Rockport Pool and at Dawson Ball Fields.

The city hired part-time workers, some of whom had worked for the previous vendor. Several got their bartender's licenses so they could serve beer at Dawson. Those workers were paid a higher rate than those workers at Rockport and Palmer.

The city had hired a concessionary for many years and some years received payments as high as $15,000, Slapak said. But in recent years, the city's payments shrunk.

Slapak said she always wanted to try running her own stands.

“In times we are searching for additional revenue, this is an opportunity for us to get more revenue than what we were seeing with the concessionary,” she said.

“I knew it would be more work on our end—which it has—but I was willing to take on that role in anticipation of the additional revenue.”

Slapak said several factors in 2013 could have resulted in less revenue for the city.

The summer was cool, which likely affected sales at the pools.

She also offered only prepackaged foods to avoid getting licenses and the required inspections from the county health department. That meant a limited menu.

Slapak said next year she would consider getting a license and expanding menu items at one site, possibly Dawson, where hot dogs might sell well, for example.

Slapak said she and her staff learned a lot last summer. The department purchased an extra refrigerator at Rockport to stock more ice cream to avoid stocking every day, for example.

Slapak last year learned how much food to purchase.

“With having all the expenses and still making $8,000, I think I'm pretty happy with that,” Slapak said.


Beer sales at Dawson Ball Fields went well in 2013 and did not cause any problems, Slapak said.

In fact, ejections went down from six in 2012 to three in 2013.

The city sold 3,777 cans of beer at Dawson for total of $9,400.

Dawson Fields is the latest venue where the city council OK'd beer consumption on public property.

At the same time, the council allowed alcohol use in several park pavilions and at the senior center for a fee.

The council has long allowed alcohol on the golf courses and at Rotary Gardens.

Several years ago, the council allowed beer sales during Janesville Jets games to help attract the team here.

Dire outcomes are predicted every time the council considers expanding sites where alcohol can be consumed.

Few problems over the years have been reported, officials have said.

Slapak acknowledge she was a bit leery of beer sales at Dawson because of the past controversies.

“I'd hoped we wouldn't have any issues, and we really didn't” Slapak said.

“People were respectful.

“They followed the rules.”

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