“It’s the best financial year we’ve ever had,” said Mike Bandera, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park vice president and general manager.
The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, known for having one the world’s highest suspension bridges, had a record 310,000 visitors this year. The park’s estimated revenue is $8.5 million, up 2.4 percent over last year.
In May, the park opened a 4,000 square-foot visitors’ center at U.S. Highway 50 and Fremont County Road 3A, outside Cañon City — about three miles from the park. Park officials estimate that 30 percent of ticket sales this year came from visitors who stopped at the center, but had not necessarily intended to visit the park.
It’s a great street corner, Bandera said, where an estimated 9,500 motorists drive by every day.
“We sold 11,000 tickets out of that building,” Bandera said. “We pull a lot of people off the road and sell them tickets right there.”
The visitors center also includes a café, gift shop and Wi-Fi.
“We give them a lot of reasons to stop,” he said.
Eighty-percent of the visitors come to the park between Memorial Day and Labor Day. An estimated 65 percent of visitors to the park are from out of state.
The park which features a sky coaster, an incline railway and an aerial tram, has helped Cañon City become a destination city, with an estimated 25 percent of park visitors spending one night there, Bandera said.
An estimated 52 percent of the park’s visitors stayed one night in Colorado Springs, he said.
“The Royal Gorge region and Pikes Peak share a tremendous amount of overnight visitors,” he said.
Next month wraps up the season for most of the rides and shows at the park, which operates through Oct. 16. The park will go into “winter mode,” Bandera said, and operate 7 of its 21 shows with reduced prices.
“The overall year went well,” Bandera said. “We were up 2 percent in attendance and 3 percent in revenue, making this year our best financial year ever.”
The park is planning more improvements, including adding a zip line over the Royal Gorge, and entering a partnership with the Dinosaur Depot for a 35,000-square-foot $9.5 million dinosaur museum, which could begin construction next year, Bandera said.
“That is part of the strategy – add new things, giving them a reason to come back,” he said.