Bonfante Gardens Out of the Woods?

Increased earnings have helped the park meet the first of two
payments to creditors
Gilroy – Bonfante Gardens, the city’s nonprofit horticultural park, has stepped back from the precipice of financial calamity and is headed for a healthy season of earnings, according to the first set of numbers released on its 2005 season.

Over the summer, the park off Hecker Pass finalized the sale of 33 acres to a local development company, as part of a debt restructuring that reduced its financial obligations from $70 million to $13 million.

At the same time, it opened a new water attraction that officials say helped increase summer attendance.

Park officials expect this year’s net profits to exceed 2004 earnings by $1 million.

They attribute the revenue growth to reductions in legal and other expenses related to the debt plan, reduced property tax payments, and “the anticipation of a successful second season” of the park’s Holiday Lights festival.

“We have made it through the financial crisis,” said Bob Kraemer, president of the park’s board of directors. “We are like every business. We will have to work hard to continue to be successful in the future.”

The reduced costs and increased earnings have helped the park meet the first of two annual payments to creditors, Kraemer added. The Nov. 1 payment totaling $831,000 in principal is less than half the amount the park paid under its prior debt load.

Park officials have now turned their gaze to the future.

Their plans include a second, expanded season of the Holiday Lights festival, a chance for families to sip hot chocolate and view the park’s variety of trees and fauna draped in a sea of lights.

This year, officials have extended the festival schedule by two days and added an ice rink to the list of attractions.

Elizabeth Williams, the park’s marketing director, said Bonfante Gardens continues to see steady growth in weddings and other events.

In addition to luring more revenue-generating events, she said officials will refocus their effort on the educational and horticultural mission of the park.

To purchase tickets or learn more about upcoming events such as Holiday Lights, which begins Nov. 25, visit www.bonfantegardens.org.

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