The Lawn on D’s future as a Seaport district fixture seems assured: The popular park is now operating in the black.
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority reported on Thursday that the park, with its signature glow-in-the-dark swings, racked up $1.4 million in expenses during the 2017 season — which ended Tuesday — down from about $1.5 million a year ago. Meanwhile, the agency said the park generated $1.75 million in revenue, up from $1.3 million.
The park almost instantly drew crowds when it opened in 2014 on what was then an otherwise drab stretch of D Street, adjacent to the agency’s sprawling Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. But the park cost more than $2 million to run in 2015, its first full year. And the Baker administration, which appointed the majority of the convention center board members, was eager to stop the bleeding. There was one point when it was unclear whether the authority would continue to keep the park going.
Convention center authority spokesman Nate Little said this year’s success was due to several factors: more food and beverage sales, more event rentals, and an emphasis on controlling costs. The agency has tried to balance revenue-generating activities with events for the public.
But the biggest reason for the park’s financial turnaround was a surge in revenue from private events and sponsorships. Little said that figure rose to $1.25 million this year, compared with $820,000 a year ago. Citizens Bank’s $750,000, three-year commitment as the park’s prime sponsor — which took effect last year — played an important role in stabilizing finances.
The convention center authority also said net revenue from food and beverage sales, after what was paid to concessionaire Rebel Restaurants Inc., increased to $410,000 this year, compared with $345,000 in 2016. The Lawn was open from May 1 through Oct. 31.
The park doubles as a community space for nearby South Boston residents and office workers, and as an outdoor event venue for corporate clients and associations that hold meetings and conventions in the complex next door. The entire lawn can be rented out daily for $21,000, a price that can be negotiated if a client books other space at the convention center or buys a certain amount of food and drink.
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jim Rooney previously ran the convention agency, and said the business plan under his watch called for breaking even within three to five years of the park’s opening. He said portions of those early deficits were due to one-time investments, such as purchasing the swings.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.