Compared to the past two years that had deficits amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, the management firm running the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds has met its budget for the 2008-09 Fiscal Year.

General manager Jason Green said on Nov. 19 the fairgrounds is projected to have met the county's budget by close to $10,000. An audit is currently being conducted to finalize the figures, but Green said it is unlikely the numbers would change from their preliminary state.

If the figures do hold, it would be the first time the fairgrounds has operated within its budget, he added.

"There are many facilities that have not been able to break even on their budgets, but we were able to do that this year," Green said. "We worked hard to get as many quality events as we could and worked hard to make them successful when they came in here because of the economy."

Steve Waterman, of the Nueces County Commissioners Court Administration, said the county had allocated $949,080 to the fairgrounds in the 2008-09 Fiscal Year for operations, but the facility's actual expenditures are projected to come in at $939,131, a difference of $9,949.

"They definitely met their budget target for (the 2008-09 Fiscal Year)," he said.

In addition, Global Spectrum managed to accrue $415,457 in revenue from events, which goes completely towards operating the facility, bringing its total budget to just over $1.3 million.

Green said the management firm has implemented numerous cost-cutting measures, such as staff cuts and a decrease for the county in the cost of the management fee. In addition, larger exhibition-type events have been making their way to the fairgrounds, such as the Corpus Christi Peddler Show.

The show was at the fairgrounds Nov. 6-8 and drew and estimated 11,000 visitors during that span, the largest crowd for a Peddler Show in its history, Green said. The result, he added, is a huge boon to the local economy.

"These are really true 'Mom and Pop' vendors," he said. "All these people that come to these shows, they eat at the restaurants out here in Robstown and Calallen and they stay in the hotels out here."

Keep it going

Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Pusley, who has been vocal about his desire to see the fairgrounds facility reign in its expenses even before he was elected to office, said he was glad to see Global Spectrum was on track to meet its budget.

"That's good news and we're all happy to hear that, but we just need to keep the ball rolling," he said. "You have to look at this with a business approach and that's exactly what we've done."

When the fairgrounds first opened in January 2007, the county had budgeted $395,349 for operational costs in its 2006-07 Fiscal Year budget. In only eight months of operation, the facility wound up costing the county a total of $1.2 million.

In the 2007-08 Fiscal Year, the county budgeted double what it had the previous year for operational costs at $784,000, hoping that revenue would increase and expenditures start to fall. The fiscal year ended up with a final cost of $1.3 million, with the county footing the bill on the difference.

This fiscal year, though, saw the inclusion of a new face on the Commissioners Court in Pusley, as well as the first full fiscal period under new fairgrounds general manager Green. Global Spectrum also had a new two-year deal approved by the county that saw a reduction in the firm's management fee, as well as lower revenue benchmarks Global Spectrum must receive in order to receive incentive bonuses.

The new deal gives Global Spectrum the opportunity to receive 20 percent of all revenues in excess of $1.1 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year, and the same percentage the following year for all revenues over $1.25 million.

However, Waterman said when the deal was approved in July that revenue at the fairgrounds had yet to cross the $1 million mark, a statement that still holds true at the end of the fiscal year.

County Judge Loyd Neal said on Monday that while he is glad to see expenditures and costs being kept under control at the fairgrounds, he is still wary of the low revenue figures being generated.

"They were right on the budget…but they missed the revenue window by a bunch," Neal said. "We still have a great concern because they lost the (Corpus Christi) Hammerheads. In order to meet the revenue numbers we set for them, they're going to have to do something."

The Hammerheads were one of the larger sporting events at the fairgrounds for the past three years before making the decision to move back to the American Bank Center in October.

Green, however, said nearly $7 million in improvements the county has approved for the fairgrounds after the demise of the proposed 4,500-seat Heritage Center arena will help revenue increase once they are completed.

Those improvements include the installation of air conditioning in Exhibit Hall A, installation of recreational vehicle parking, as well as new parking areas and sidewalks.

The American Cancer Society is one of the first organizations that will be able to use the new, air-conditioned Exhibit Hall A when it has its Cattle Baron's Ball at the end of March, as well as the Relay for Life in April.

In addition, the fledgling Crude City Roller Derby will open its first full eight-game season in the building in March, which will draw teams from all over Texas and Oklahoma to the area.

"Whereas when we haven't been alble to use the Exhibition Hall in the past, now we'll be able to," Green said. "We should be able to attract more bookings."