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Federal Way hopes marketing can revive revenue at Dumas Bay Centre

A marketing team has been hired to polish the image of Federal Way's Dumas Bay Centre.

The city has owned the facility, located at 3200 S.W. Dash Point Road, since 1993 — and historically, expenditures outdo revenues. Cipalla Communications, for an amount not to exceed $70,000, will try to reverse the trend by producing a marketing plan for the facility.

Cipalla's work will include a communications plan and marketing materials. The city's goal is to identify Dumas Bay Centre's niche and increase revenue, parks department director Cary Roe said. This will be the first time Dumas Bay Centre has been formally marketed.

The facility is mostly used for conferences, retreats, weddings, catered events and special occasions. Last year, it brought in nearly $500,000 in revenue, Roe said. The facility still required an $88,000 subsidy from the city.

"The facility is getting used," Roe said. "We're just trying to find a way where the facility pays for itself."

Annually, a subsidy is needed to get by. That amount is expected at roughly $20,000 this year, Roe said. In 2008, the subsidy was $91,533. In 2007 and 2006, respectively, Dumas Bay received subsidies amounting to $43,417 and $29,455.

Reaching sustainability

The city is hopeful Cipalla's professional marketing plan will increase bookings and rentals as well as lead to scheduling of another 10 to 20 social events per year at Dumas Bay Centre. Cipalla will give Dumas Bay Centre an identity and play up what it does best.

The company will highlight the facility's attributes through a variety of marketing measures. Commonplace practices, such as identifying a target audience, creating a logo and producing mailable brochures will take place. There will be also be a strong emphasis on newer marketing practices, such as developing a library of images that document the facility's beauty (featuring views of the Puget Sound and Olympic Mountain range) and launching a top-notch website with information, photos and a virtual tour.

Marketing efforts include a cookbook of recipes by the facility's chef Rob Sanders. The book will be available in limited print copy and on demand.

"A lot of the customer feedback that we get out there is in high praise of chef Rob's food," city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

Decreasing costs

The professional marketing efforts will be paired with an ongoing effort to reduce expenditures. This year saw the rebidding of the janitorial contract and a new push to have the city's parks department provide supplementary landscaping services, which reduces the costs of contracting the services. Instead of contracting for laundry services, staff now takes the centre's linens to the Federal Way Community Center to be washed. Parks staff also assist with repairs around the facility, Roe said.

"We're pushing every button we can push to reduce expenditures," he said.

Within two years, Roe hopes the facility will carry a positive annual balance of $35,000 to $40,000. Revenue not needed to keep the centre operating will be placed in a reserve fund, which currently holds $80,000 and is now supplies subsidies, Roe said. Later, that fund could be used to add value to the facility by replacing or repairing broken, old or outdated items, such as carpet, he said.

Cherishing a jewel

If the city is successful, it will mark a grand turnaround from the future Dumas Bay was facing in 2009. In April that year, in the midst of budget setting, former city manager Neal Beets announced Dumas Bay Centre would close.

"I'm not proposing a new use," Beets said at that time. "I do think we need to stop the bleeding out there."

When Brian Wilson took over the city manager position that same year, he reversed Beets' decision to close the facility.

"We do think we have a jewel here," Wilson said shortly after making his decision.

History

Dumas Bay Centre was originally owned by the Sisters of Visitation Monastery and operated under the Archdiocese of Seattle as a convent and women's retreat center from 1956 to 1993. In 1993, Federal Way purchased the centre for $2.75 million. The money mostly came from bonds, grants and state funding and carries stipulations that the centre must remain a government facility until 2016.

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