TRENTON STEELTOWN CENTENNIAL PARK

In February, 1995, Martin Bates, Director of Recreation for the Town of Trenton, Nova Scotia and manager of the 565 acre municipally-owned Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park, and Marilou Sutherland, his administrative assistant of 10 years, were preparing to meet to develop an advertising and promotion plan for the Park. Tentatively their goals for the plan were:

  • To increase awareness of the existence of the Park among residents of Pictou County and neighbouring counties.

  • To improve the image of the Park as a wholesome, family-oriented recreational experience.

  • To generate increased visitor traffic and revenue from camping, mini golf, the swimming pool and the take-out canteen.

  • To play down the words Steeltown (Trenton's 110 year old nickname as the birthplace of steel in Canada) and Centennial (because the Park was the Town's 1967 Centennial project) without alienating long-time residents of the Town.

In preparation for the meeting they had gathered and reviewed information on the Park, the competition, the market and various media alternatives.


This case was prepared by Professor Ian Spencer of St. Francis Xavier University for the Acadia Institute Of Case Studies as a basis for classroom discussion, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management.  The author gratefully acknowledges the efforts of BBA students Carla Riley and Laurene Muphy who prepared an advertising plan for Trent Park which generated much of the data for the case.

Copyright © 1995, the School of Business Administration, Acadia University. Reproduction of this case is allowed without permission for education purposes, but all such reproductions must acknowledge the copyright. This permission does not include publication.


The Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park

The Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park dominated the north end of the Town of Trenton and was one of the largest municipal parks in Atlantic Canada. Except for a day use area adjacent to the main gate and a 48-site campground, the Park was essentially unspoiled wilderness including a large stand of hemlock trees reputed to be among the oldest in the Province. Generous grants from all three levels of government and a local service club permitted the Park to offer a wide variety of facilities and activities which Martin estimated generated about 60,000 person-visits in 1994—about 90 percent from May to September and about 20 percent from residents of the Town of Trenton. A map of the Park is presented in Exhibit 1.

Day Park

There was no day use admission fee to enter the Park and enjoy its natural beauty and recreational amenities. Among the many available free activities were:

  • walking, hiking or jogging along the Park's well marked trails

  • picnicking in the large grassy area around the duck ponds

  • using the playground and splash pool

  • fishing in the well stocked trout ponds

  • playing horseshoes, lawn bowling, volleyball, basketball or tennis

  • listening to music (occasionally) at the amphitheatre/bandstand

The official season for day parks in Nova Scotia was May 20th to October 10th. However, because the Park was managed by Trenton Recreation , several off-season activities were offered:

  • cross country skiing

  • sleigh rides (on special occasions)

  • hiking, walking, jogging

  • skating on an outdoor rink (not one of the ponds for safety reasons)

In 1994, revenue from equipment rentals, primarily cross country skiing, was about $2,000.

The Park also generated about $2,000 from group rentals. Groups which recently had rented Park facilities include The Kinsmen, CNIB, Beavers/Cubs/Brownies, elementary schools, an antique car show, church groups, the horticultural society, three road races, the SPCA, the United Way, the Kennel club, a senior citizens festival, private birthday parties and the Trenton Summer Fun Fest Committee.

Through daily observation from his office at the Park gate and some questioning of visitors, Martin determined that a typical day user was a middle to lower income family, often one parent with one to three children, who lived in the Trenton or New Glasgow area. He classified the walkers and joggers as "fitness buffs" who ran in the morning or early evening and "reducers", typically females, who walked in groups of up to five during the day. Collecting additional information from visitors to the Park was one of Martin's goals but to date this goal had not been acted upon.

The Swimming Pool

Designed with family fun and safety in mind the new (July, 1994) 3,000 square foot swimming pool, was an immediate hit with local residents and campers. The pool and deck were protected by a wooden privacy fence on three sides and a chain-link fence facing the playground area on the fourth side. The pool was open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and supervised at all times by qualified lifeguards. Admission fees for a two-hour timeblock were $3 for adults, $2 for children and $6 for families (up to three children). Revenue in 1994 was $4,827 in July (10 days), $8,636 in August and $329 in September (5 days).

The Woodland Adventure Mini-Golf

In July, 1993, the rather non-descript seven year-old original mini-golf course was replaced by a professionally designed new course. The Woodland Adventure Mini-Golf course, which winds its way through a wooded area, was considered to be attractive, challenging, and fun to play. The course was open daily (weather permitting) from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and charged a fee of $2.00 per 18 holes. Revenue from the mini-golf course in 1993 and 1994 was:

1993

1994

May

June

July

August

September

October

$ 509 (19 days)

841

6,214

1,732 (19 days)

$ 736 (9 days)

2,868

5,182

5,586

866 (18 days)

Total

$9,296

$15,238

 

In 1992, revenue from the old mini golf course was $4,600.

Take Out and Canteen Services

The take-out restaurant and canteen was located at one end of the administration building near the main gate. The take out was open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and served soup, salads, sandwiches, hot meals and ice cream. Adjacent to the take out was an open air cement porch with seating for about 30 people. The canteen was open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and sold chips, candy bars, a few basic groceries and cigarettes. The season for the take-out and canteen was from late May to mid September and revenue in 1993 and 1994 was:

1993

1994

May

June

July

August

September

October

$ 1,326 (11 days)

8,594

10,436

13,930

6,216 (20 days)

$ 3,054 (12 days)

11,346

16,540

16,718

5,068 (18 days)

Total

$40,502

$52,726

 

Revenue was $38,000 in 1992, $18,000 in 1991 and $27,000 in 1990.

The Campground

The campground contained 48 wooded sites each with electrical, water and sewage hook ups, its own firepit and a picnic table. The sites were fairly large and most were able to accommodate large pull trailers and self-contained motor homes. Shower facilities and firewood were available for small service charges. The campground was open from mid-May to early October and daily rates, including unlimited use of the swimming pool, are $15 for tenters and $18 for those requiring the 3-way hookups. Prior to the opening of the pool, the rates were $12 and $15 respectively.

Revenue from the campground for 1993 and 1994 was:

 

1993

1994

May

June

July

August

September

October

$ 133 (9 days)

2,057

7,392

8,561

3,533

1,585 (20 days)

$ 118 (9 days)

2,280

12,118

12,230

3,038

69 (3 days)

Total

$23,361

$29,853

 

Revenue was $22,000 in 1992, $24,000 in 1991, and $26,000 in 1990. Total site nights in 1993 and 1994 were 60 percent short-term stays (less than one week) which required the 3-way hook ups, 30 percent short-term stays which did not require the 3-way hook ups (tents or small camper trailers) and 10 percent long-term stays, primarily Department of Highways trailers to accommodate out-of-area workers. About 30% of short term stays were pre-booked. By geography, the short-term stays were:

Motorized Homes

RVs

Camper Trailers

Tents

Nova Scotia

Rest of Canada

U.S.A.

Abroad

35%

40

22

2

47%

41

10

2

 

The Competition

In the most general sense all leisure time pursuits posed some competition to the park. Martin, however, was most concerned about other campgrounds in Pictou County. The 1994 Nova Scotia Travel Guide listed nine such campgrounds. Each is described briefly below:

Distance from Trenton Park (km)

 

Number of Sites

 

 

Minimum Rate

 

 

On The Ocean

 

 

Season

(wks)

Name

Location

Unserviced

Serviced

Seafoam Campground

Caribou Provincial Park

Birchwood Campground

Harbour Light Campground

Salt Springs Prov. Park

D and B Campground

Elm Glen Campground

Circle C Ranch Campground

Cranberry Campground

River John

Pictou

Pictou

Pictou

Salt Springs

Little Harbour

Springville

Piedmont Valley

Merigomish

70

30

35

30

50

10

25

35

25

23

82

-

30

50

10

-

15

20

230

76

-

35

137

-

65

20

-

20

353

$13

7.50

12

12

7.50

11

8

6

10

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

17

15

26

19

15

17

26

10

19

 

Occupancy rates at campgrounds along the Northumberland Shore of Nova Scotia averaged 25 percent in 1993 according to the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture and comprised of 40 percent short-term stays and 60 percent long-term stays.

An Overview of The Local and Tourist Market

Trenton (pop. 5,000 including the rural area to the immediate north and east) was one of five incorporated towns in Pictou County (pop 50,000). The other towns and their approximate sizes were New Glasgow (pop. 10,000), Pictou (pop. 5,000), Stellarton (pop. 5,000) and Westville (pop. 5,000). Pictou County was in north eastern mainland Nova Scotia, about 150 kilometres north and east of Halifax, and 250 kilometres west of Sydney, the province’s two largest urban areas. Pictou County also was on the Northumberland Strait, the body of water separating Prince Edward Island from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Northumberland Ferries Ltd. provided passenger and commercial transportation services between the eastern end of Prince Edward Island (Wood Islands) and Nova Scotia (Caribou Point near The Town of Pictou). Adjacent counties from which day use or overnight visitors could be drawn are Colchester (pop. 50,000) to the west, Antigonish (pop. 20,000) to the east and Guysborough (pop. 12,000) to the south and east. Many residents of these three counties already shopped regularly at the malls in New Glasgow. A map of the area is presented in Exhibit 2.

To understand the size and nature of the out-of-province market better, Martin obtained some recent statistics from the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture visitor entry and exit surveys including:

  • about 1.1 million people visited Nova Scotia between May 1 and October 31, 1992

  • they arrived by car (71%), air (19%), RV-type vehicles (6%) and bus (4%)

  • RV-type visitors to Nova Scotia came from Ontario (25%), Atlantic Canada (23%), the rest of Canada (13%), and the USA (39%).

  • about 60% of RV-type visitors arrived in Nova Scotia via Amherst and about 10% arrived via the Northumberland Ferries at Caribou Point (Pictou)

  • about 40% of all visitor parties were couples, 20% were families, 20% were singles and 20% were non-family groups

  • visitors came to Nova Scotia to sightsee (67%), shop (64%) and visit craft shops (46%)

  • about 25% of all visitors to Nova Scotia either passed by or stopped in the New Glasgow area.

Administration, Staffing and Operating Results

Although Martin and Marilou spent close to half their time annually on Park business and about 80 percent during the summer months, their salaries were charged to the Department of Recreation budget. In the summer, the Park employed the equivalent of 13 employees at an average of $6 per hour including benefits. After the pool opened these 13 jobs were: mini golf: 1½ jobs, canteen/take-out: 3½ jobs, maintenance/security: 4 jobs and pool: 4 jobs. Total operating expenses in 1994 were about $147,000 comprised of:

 

× Wages and benefits

× Utilities

× Insurance

× Supplies (maintenance)

× Supplies (canteen/restaurant)

× Supplies (other programs)

× Advertising and promotion

× Office and administration

$ 60,000

15,000

3,000

20,000

30,000

10,000

4,000

5,000

Total Operating Expenses

$147,000

 

It was Martin's judgment that supplies associated with the take out/canteen and a small portion of the supplies for maintenance were the only variable costs. The rest were relatively fixed for the year. The accounting system did not easily permit determining profitability by activity or determining the allocation of some expenses between the Department of Recreation and the Park. Thus, Martin knew the figures, though probably quite accurate, were a bit contrived.

Final revenue figures for 1994 were $116,000 comprised of:

× Canteen/restaurant

× Campground

× Mini-golf

× Pool

× Equipment rentals

× Facility rentals

$ 53,000

30,000

15,000

14,000

2,000

2,000

$116,000

 

In January, 1995 Martin had sought, and received, an operating grant of about $31,000 from Town Council to balance the books. In recent years, the grant had been $40-50 thousand. One of Martin's goals was to eliminate the annual operating grant by 1998—a goal which he felt would require a 50% increase in revenue. Attaining self-sufficiency was an important goal because some town residents had long considered the Park to be a "money pit" and a "white elephant".

Recent Advertising and Promotion Planning

Martin and Marilou realized advertising and promotion had never received the attention they deserved. In part this was due to the heavy workload caused by being simultaneously the Recreation Department and the Park Administration, and, in part, to the fact that neither had a background in marketing. Historically, most direct mail pieces (flyers) were produced in-house using the office typewriter and photocopier to save money. Typically these flyers were distributed to residents of Trenton and the surrounding area and advertised canteen or take-out specials. In addition, small space ads were placed in the New Glasgow Evening News and The Pictou County Tourism Brochure. Examples of these ads are contained in Exhibit 3. When the pool opened, Martin and Marilou worked with the staff of The Evening News to create an 8½"´ 11" free standing newspaper insert which was sent to the 5,000 or so subscribers who lived in Trenton, New Glasgow and the adjacent fringe area. This flyer is reproduced in Exhibit 4.

The Park's advertising and promotion budget for 1994 was $3,700 and was determined primarily on the basis of the availability of funds. Martin estimated the budget was spent as follows:

× Flyers to area residents (2000 copies ´ 3 flyers ´ 12¢ per unit)

× Small space print ads

× Campground Brochures (20¢/unit ´ 10,000 for 1994)

× Free standing insert ($350 for insertion, $150 for printing)

$ 720

500

2,000

500

$3,720

 

Developing The Advertising and Promotion Plan for 1995

It seemed that 1995 would be a good year to devote extra effort developing the advertising and promotion plan. There were no time-consuming capital projects planned. There promised to be good continuity in seasonal staff. The pool provided an opportunity to stress the full-service nature of the Park, and the Town Clerk, Robin Campbell, indicated he would support advertising and promotion spending increases provided they showed potential for revenue gains.

As input to the meeting, Marilou assembled a page of rough estimates of media costs which indicated:

  • The ad channel on cablevision had about 10,000 subscribers, most residing in the five towns, and charged $100 per month for an ad seen once every 3-4 minutes.

  • Radio CKEC, New Glasgow reached most residents of Pictou County. An ROS (run on schedule) plan cost about $24 per 30 second spot.

  • The New Glasgow Evening News sold just over 10,000 copies per day, almost all in Pictou County. Rates were about $1,000 for a full page ad and proportionately less as the size decreased. Inserts could be purchased for a labour charge of $350 for 5,000 copies or $700 for 10,000 copies. Printing costs were extra.

  • The Pictou Advocate was a weekly newspaper, circulation 5,000, with distribution primarily in the western half of Pictou County. Rates were about $600 for a full page ad and proportionately less as the ad size decreased.

  • The Nova Scotia Travel Guide targeted the out-of-province tourist. A ¼ page ad cost $1,500. The Province printed and distributed over 500,000 copies of the guide.

  • The Advocate Printing Company in Pictou indicated simple 2 colour 8½"´ 11" brochures could be printed for as little as 10¢ per unit if volume was at least 5,000. Brochures or flyers could be distributed via Canada Post's householder mailing service for 8½¢ per unit. Fancier 4 colour booklets or foldouts could cost $1 to $2 per unit.

  • A local sign shop indicated it could produce small (roughly one square foot) two colour directional signs for inside or outside the Park for about $50 each and could erect a large 8'´ 12' highway sign for about $2,500.

Martin also assembled a page of notes but his input to the initial meeting contained a mixture of unanswered questions and untested ideas:

  • Should we spend our money on residents of Trenton? the other towns? the rest of Pictou County? neighbouring counties? the rest of Nova Scotia? or out-of-province visitors?

  • Should we advertise in the off season? from May to October? or only in July and August?

  • Could we do a promotional tie in with a local or regional business which also caters to families and good health?

  • What messages do we want to communicate? What really is The Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park?

  • Do we want to communicate with visitors while they are in the Park and after they have left as well as before they arrive?

  • How can we get ratepayers to see the Park as a great resource instead of a great money loser?

  • What kinds of events might we stage to generate exposure across the Province and beyond?

Martin and Marilou were confident they had a good product and confident there was substantial market potential but when they looked at all of the advertising and promotion decisions they had to make, their confidence waned. It appeared the next few weeks would be challenging indeed.


Exhibit 1

Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park
A Map of The Park From the 1994 Campground Brochure

tscp01.jpg (45107 bytes)

Exhibit 2

Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park

A Map of The Area From the 1994 Campground Brochure

tscp02.jpg (37756 bytes)

Exhibit 3

Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park

Examples of Print Ads, 1993 and 1994

tscp03.jpg (28206 bytes)
tscp04.jpg (9241 bytes) tscp05.jpg (9096 bytes)
tscp06.jpg (8570 bytes)

 

Exhibit 4

Trenton Steeltown Centennial Park

Free Standing Insert, New Glasgow Evening News, Front Side

tscp07.jpg (60422 bytes)

Free Standing Insert, New Glasgow Evening News, Back Side

tscp08.jpg (62026 bytes)