A taste for Starbucks

Kentucky State Parks adds Starbucks Coffee
to offerings to boost revenues

Carrollton's Gen. Butler
among those parks serving

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (May 2004) – Visitors to Gen. Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton, Ky., can now enjoy a steaming cup of Starbucks coffee. The Kentucky Parks Department recently secured a deal with the national gourmet coffee chain to allow Starbucks kiosks, small serving stations, in the lobby of General Butler and at 10 other state resort parks. Starbucks coffee also will be served in the parks’ dining rooms and, at General Butler only, with the in-room coffee service, according to Parks Department public information officer Jim Carroll.

Starbucks mug

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

Visitors to Kentucky State Parks can now sip on Starbucks Coffee.

The introduction of Starbucks is just one of the Parks Department’s initiatives to help boost revenue and overcome an operating deficit. Although the department receives $80 million a year in state funding, it typically takes in only about $50 million, according to Carroll.
“The goal is for us to raise our revenue as one way of eliminating the $29 million subsidy the park system has had (from the state),” he said.
Other plans to get the park system in shape include an increase in lodging fees, implementation of a new centralized reservation system that includes online services, and trimming the fat from administrative costs.
The responsibility for making sure these initiatives succeed will fall primarily upon the shoulders of newly appointed parks commissioner George Ward. A veteran hotel developer and manager, Ward has built, owned and/or operated more than 30 hotels. He is now leading the overhaul of Kentucky’s state park system, one of the largest in the country with 17 resort parks, 22 recreational parks and 10 historic sites.
Kentucky’s state parks serve 7.6 million visitors a year and contribute about $289 million to the economy, according to the parks department. But despite these statistics, the parks department as a whole has traditionally been a drain on state funds. Just one park, Cumberland Falls, is financially self-sufficient, Ward said in an interview that appeared in the April edition of The Lane Report business journal.
Since he took office in February, Ward said he has uncovered multiple examples of unnecessary expenses, including auto insurance premiums paid for park vehicles that no longer run and excessive credit card purchases made by state employees.
“In one park, there were more than 100 charges by state employees at the local Wal-Mart. It was clear there was no central system for tracking expenses,” Ward said. To curb such expenditures nearly 300 procurement cards held by park employees were revoked in February.
Ward also said he discovered inefficiency in the department’s construction and maintenance program. For example, during a recent visit to General Butler he found several contract workers lounging on the job.
“When I went into a room being renovated, there were four workers casually standing there smoking. I asked what everyone was doing, they said, ‘We’re waiting for the paint to dry,’” said Ward. He plans to avoid this kind of situation in the future by replacing contract workers, those who are employed less than year-round to carry out a variety of small construction and renovation projects, with private labor supervised by permanent Parks employees. Not only will this approach save time, it should also save the department money, according to Ward.
In addition to making state parks self-sufficient, Ward also hopes to make them engines of economic prosperity for surrounding areas. Increasing the number of visitors is one way to make that happen.
General Butler already attracts to the Carrollton area more than 1 million visitors each year, according to Joey Graves, executive director of the Carroll County Community Development Corporation. “That translates into more customers for our small businesses,” he said. Graves said it is also an incentive for new businesses to locate there. “When I tell them (General Butler) attracts 1 million visitors a year, that gets their attention,” he said.

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