Bearing the market 

Why does it cost $1.3 million to run the River Market?

“That was my question,” Mayor Mark Stodola said in advance of the City Board of Directors vote to approve a one-year agreement that would turn the market's operations over to the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

River Market rents and parking fees produced only $268,593 in 2008. But that was only $62,486 less than was budgeted.

The entire 2008 budget for the River Market — which the LRCVB contributed $242,472 to — was $887,659. For 2009, it's $946,703, with expected revenues of $390,518. The LRCVB is to contribute $250,000. The city will have to make up the rest.

But the River Market shouldn't be expected to pay for itself, assistant city manager Bryan Day said, anymore than other parks in Little Rock — or nationally — do. The River Market is a public service.

Are the vendors in the Ottenheimer Hall paying enough in rent? The parks perspective is yes, Day said. Most of the vendors “are small business, minority, one-person shops.” A businessman might think differently, but the River Market isn't a business.

The Riverfest Amphitheatre — which in its heyday produced up to $150,000 a year, Day said, but is used less now — is the obvious vehicle to bring in more money.

Over the past 10 years, the River Market has had to borrow $2,253,939 from the general fund, Finance Director Sara Lenehan said.

With total spending of $1.29 million, the River Market was over budget by $601,077 in 2008. It's over the year-to-date budget by $188,041 this year.

The most striking budget-busting was in the area of public relations. Thanks to some confusion, the River Market and the LRCVB were paying invoices against the same budget, spending $345,467, nearly double the $180,000 that was budgeted, Lenehan said.

The PR budget is part of the “services” category, which includes utilities. Utilities went over budget by $52,000. 

A fire at the market accounted for a large part of the nearly $185,000 in overspending in the maintenance and repair budget.

But Dan O'Byrne, CEO of the convention bureau, says there will be no overspending while his agency runs the market, which starts Nov. 1. “We intend to take the revenues whatever they are and manage from that point,” he said. “We use a more explicit business model.”

Turning things over to the LRCVB should produce savings by eliminating redundancies. The current staff of the River Market may apply for jobs with the LRCVB, but there will no doubt be casualties. (Director Shannon Light declined to be interviewed for this article.) “We already have people who clean facilities, deal with staging, set up functions. We can deploy those resources,” O'Byrne said.

“We paid $1,000 to have someone come change the filters in the air conditioners,” Day said. “The Bureau has an HVAC person. We hire construction people to paint and fix; the bureau has its own crew.”

The LRCVB, with its ample marketing staff, will also be able to direct business to the River Market and amphitheater. Its salesmen can now offer conventioneers the meeting space without having to coordinate with the city Parks and Recreation Department.

The city and the LRCVB will each contribute $250,000 to operations in 2010. If revenues don't grow, that gives LRCVB some $750,000 with which to run the market. “If the revenues are only $750,000, then we'll do our best to operate the business at $750,000,” O'Byrne said.

At a recent City Board meeting, some directors questioned whether other, private outfits, had been considered to run the River Market. City Manager Bruce Moore said they had, but that a trial one-year contract with the LRCVB seemed like the best solution. City Director Dean Kumpuris, who has made Riverfront Park his pet project, said he believed the new agreement in 2010 will “look very different” from this year's, approval of which was unanimous. “It will morph into something better, with more opportunities to come,” he said. “I think it's going to be a positive thing that's going to happen.”

It's not easy to give up running the River Market, Day said. “We birthed it, managed it, grew it.” But the city will still maintain control by defining the “long-term vision” for the facility, which Day said should be “a farmer's market first and foremost.”

Riverfront Park will still be managed by city parks. 



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Coming to McLeod: Hursley and Simmons, land and dreamscapes

    Heads up for Thursday, Oct. 27: Matt McLeod Fine Art Gallery opens "Landscapes/Dreamscapes: At the Crossroads of Observation and Memory," an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Little Rock artists Jeanie Lockeby Hursley and  Dominique Simmons. 
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • Good Weather, outdoors and in (Elliott Earls)

    If you read this week's Arts and Entertainment feature on Good Weather Gallery, you are probably wanting to know a little bit more about the show opening tomorrow, Oct. 22: Elliott Earls' "Death of a Salesman."
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • White Water gets Southern Salted

    Lauren McCants, the Southern Salt Co. food truck founder and chef, is now serving food at the White Water Tavern Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday. On the menu: hamburgers and cheeseburgers (of course) as well as deep fried pork tenderloin sandwiches, deep fried chicken sandwiches, a smoked bologna and over-easy egg sandwich (real good, she says), chicken nachos and a special, like coconut curried chicken. There are vegetarian options, as well: Deep-fried tofu sandwiches, prepared with avocado and like a fish taco; and sweet potato and avocado tacos.
    • Oct 21, 2016
  • More »

Most Shared

Latest in Top Stories

  • Good for the soul

    The return of Say McIntosh, restaurateur
    • Jun 1, 2010
  • Robocalls are illegal

    Robocalls -- recorded messages sent to thousands of phone numbers -- are a fact of life in political campaigns. The public doesn't like them much, judging by the gripes about them, but campaign managers and politicians still believe in their utility.
    • May 31, 2010
  • Riverfest winds down

    With Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm, Steve Miller Band, Robert Cray, Ludacris and more performing.
    • May 30, 2010
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Five Fun Fall Activities

Five Fun Fall Activities

Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities

Event Calendar

« »


2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Faith of our felons

    • He's a monster with monsters who aid his unholy lust

    • on October 22, 2016

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation