Dreamland amusement park recorded a £6.35million operating loss in 2018 – but bosses say the figure was ‘anticipated’ due to ‘considerable upfront investment.’
The figures are included in the company’s annual report, year ending December 2018, submitted to Companies House. The amount is almost triple the 2017 loss which was recorded as £2.5million.
The end of 2017 saw the company, operating as Sands Heritage Ltd, come out of administration and a CVA, to pay debts, was completed in January 2018.
Revenue did increase in 2018 to £4.7million, up from £3.8million the previous year, but there was also a significant spend on new rides, layout changes at the park and the buying of property, including the ‘Godden’s Gap’ site which received planning permission to be developed into a hotel.
The end of year accounts show a £7.8million ‘purchase of tangible fixed assets,’ although this is considerably less than the huge £24million shown for 2017 when the park underwent a major refurbishment. This included re-landscaping, vintage rides restoration and the introduction of contemporary street food, eclectic bars, and main stage.
Renovations also took place at the Cinque Ports pub, the Quarterdeck Brewhouse and former Escape nightclub – Ziggy’s rooftop bar – during 2017.
The accounts show 258 employees for the park in 2018 with the majority, 216, being site staff, resulting in a £4.2million wage bill plus £182,224 ‘director renumeration.’
Share capital at the end of 2018 was valued at £51,7million minus profit/loss reserves of £22.7million leaving a total of £30million,
A report attached to the accounts states: “During quarter one 2018, a total of £14.6million was raised via a share issue of ordinary shares in order to fund trading through to 2019 and to support a significant capital investment plan for the year.
“This capital expenditure enabled a material development of park facilities, including 8 new rides which were installed and operational for the key summer 2018 trading period. The management team switched from a free to enter to a pay to enter model for the theme park. Revenues grew from £3.88m in 2017 to £4.71m in 2018.
“The Dreamland park remains a major employer in the Thanet region, providing both permanent and seasonal employment across the business. The average number of employees increased by 22% in the year, in line with the growth of the business and expansion of the Company’s operations.”
The report adds that there is “a robust business plan” in place.
A spokesperson for Dreamland added: “Dreamland Margate has been growing steadily since reopening. Our long-term strategy for Dreamland is to become a full 365-day business that supports the local economy year round. This work takes time and involved considerable upfront investment, and as a result we anticipated losses during this initial period of growth.
“Dreamland turns 100 in 2020, and we are very excited to have secured an incredible programme of events in celebration of this momentous anniversary. The park reopens in full for the season on April 4 and we look forward to building on the record-breaking success of 2019 this year.”
Last year the April-September season saw 650,000 visitors to the park – doubling the number on the year before.
However, there was also the revelation in September that park funders Arrowgrass Capital Partners – which invested more than £25million – had to close down after a wave of redemption requests from investors wanting their share capital returned.
Sands Heritage Ltd said the park will remain in contact with the hedge fund as arrangements are made for the sell-off of Arrowgrass investments and outstanding loans. It is thought Arrowgrass will sell off loans made to the park to another fund. However, according to Bloomberg Arrowgrass has privately classified the park as one of its harder-to-sell holdings.
A charge on the park due to Arrowgrass from operator Sands Heritage Ltd was paid in full in September.
Last August Thanet council Cabinet members approved in principle the sale of the freehold for the entire Dreamland site to SHL -including the council car park– subject to agreement from external funders and legal advice. SHL currently holds a 99 year lease.
Following a change of leading party at the council, from Conservative to Labour, it is not clear if the proposal will go forward as agreed or alterations will be made to the terms. Labour councillors had previously raised concerns at the inclusion of the car park, Sunshine Café and cinema building in the sale package.