Roger Coyle walked through the cavernous belly of the World War II-era aircraft carrier Yorktown on Thursday and marveled at its displays.
“This is phenomenal,” the retired law enforcement officer from Connecticut said while touring the warship with wife Pat and friends Greg and Peg Dawiczyk, also of Connecticut.
“This is wonderful, and we would definitely come back,” Greg Dawiczyk, a retired toolmaker and former Coast Guard Reservist, said, as they looked over aircraft displayed inside the carrier.
World War II veteran Lloyd Smith echoed his remarks as he read displays inside the Medal of Honor Museum on the ship.
“I just hope I will have time to see it all,” the 87-year-old Georgia resident said. “It’s great.”
They and tourists like them are part of the reason Patriots Point expects to see a sizable revenue surplus when the budget year ends in June.
For the first six months of the state-owned tourist attraction’s fiscal year, Patriots Point brought in more money than expected, partially from a surge in ticket sales.
Revenues for July through December at the Mount Pleasant naval and maritime museum came in 10 percent higher than the same period in 2011, with Patriots Point bringing in about $4.6 million.
If the trend continues for the final six months, the state agency could see a $1 million surplus, said Mac Burdette, executive director.
The main reason for the increase is better marketing, he said.
“We are spending more on advertising than we have in the past,” Burdette said.
Patriots Point increased its marketing budget this year by about 30 percent to $450,000.
Burdette also believes people are taking a look at everything the naval museum is working on to “right the ship” such as repairing its vessels and purging itself of those it can’t maintain. That’s translating into more interest and more visitors.
Because of that renewed interest and better marketing, ticket sales grew 5 percent, climbing nearly $100,000 to nearly $1.8 million for the six-month period.
In every category tracked by the state agency, revenue rose.
In the gift shop, which was reconfigured so tourists must now exit through it after their visits, sales soared 17 percent, up to nearly $800,000.
Camping revenue jumped 14 percent, parking income rose 3 percent, money from leased property and commissions climbed 7 percent. Miscellaneous items, the smallest revenue producer, also posted a gain.
With lower operating expenses than expected and higher sales, Burdette hopes to use part of the money to modernize the static displays and improve the product offerings of the Yorktown, the centerpiece attraction.
“You have to have a product to market,” he said. “We want to bring the museum into the 21st century.”
Some of the money could also be used to repay the remaining $8.7 million owed to the state for a $9.2 million loan to repair the warship Laffey.
Patriots Point wants to repay the state over several years and hopes payments can be delayed a couple of years while it uses earnings to improve the product.
“We have to invest in our operation to make more money,” Burdette said. “We should be able to handle a $400,000 payment and do these other things we want to do too.”
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/ warrenlancewise.
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