Although Trackside Teen Center’s principal goal is to serve Wilton’s teenagers, private rentals were the primary driver behind yet another successful year at the facility, especially in terms of balancing its budget.
At its Feb. 4 regular meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed Trackside’s plans for the new year and reviewed its 2012 results and operations.
According to Mark Ketley, the center’s executive director, Trackside has managed to take on no debt over the year, while raising about $25,000 through various private rentals.
“We’ve had another strong year that we’re very excited about and very proud of,” he said. “Numbers have gone up month after month.”
Reinforcing the center’s ability to meet its objective of serving local teens, Mr. Ketley said, the center has already had about 144 drop-in visitors in January of this year.
These mostly include teenage visitors on Friday nights, who generally come to socialize, play music and have food and snacks. There is only a charge for special events, such as concerts.
“Drop-ins have risen dramatically,” he said, especially those at “coffeehouse nights.”
Mr. Ketley estimates about 100 teens have dropped by on the average night that is set up as a coffee and lounge setting.
Activity-based attendance, such as concerts, which often entail a fee, drew about 4,700 visitors in 2012. About 5,800 guests came to the facility as a result of rentals, which usually range from fund-raisers to meetings and business gatherings. About 65 various groups used the center for paid rentals throughout last year.
“Rentals are still very strong,” Mr. Ketley said. “We are booked pretty much every Saturday night.”
Trackside regularly plays host to Speak-up Wilton, various Red Cross blood drives, and the Taste of Wilton, and is the primary storage and distribution area for the annual Scarecrow Fest. Inclement weather over the past few years has also made Trackside a major storm center.
“As long as we have power we are open,” Mr. Ketley said. “We’ve had a lot of families with kids come to hang out and play games.”
Town crews also often use the facility as sleeping quarters if they must find overnight arrangements, rather than using the barn at Merwin Meadows, the traditional arrangement.
In addition to remaining debt-free, rental revenues have also allowed Trackside to move into its fifth year without raising its budgetary request to the town.
“We are doing more with less,” Mr. Ketley said. “We will continue to manage our budget effectively.”
The center has also received grants from County Assemblies and various fund-raisers.
“For our future, we’ve been very aware about what the town wants — for us to remain strong and relevant,” he said.
The neighboring construction of Wilton Commons has only “minimally” affected the center’s operations, Mr. Ketley said. For the most part, vehicles and crews have not interfered with parking space.
“We’ve gotten along pretty well,” he said. “They’ve been very good neighbors so far.”
Although rental revenues have increased, they have tended to stay aligned with expenses, leaving only marginal profits.
“We’re in a positive variance budget, and we have no debt,” Mr. Ketley said. “At the end of the year we will have a slight positive variance.”
Although Trackside would likely bring in more revenue by leasing the center out on Friday nights — which has thus far been open for teenagers — Mr. Ketley said the board must remain true to its objective.
“We’re a teen center first; that’s our first and foremost mission statement.”
First Selectman Bill Brennan spoke glowingly of the center’s improved turnouts and active community participation.
“We’ve really been pleased over the last couple of years,” he said. “We had an underutilized facility a couple of years ago, and now we have a utilized facility. It’s a real asset to the community.”