Winter Wonderland and Chester Rocks have put a chill into Chester Race Company's most recent accounts with more than half a million pounds lost.
The two Chester Racecourse events made a loss of £600,000, according to the company's recently published financial statements for 2014.
In his statement, chairman Martin Beaumont called 2014 a ‘mixed year’ in terms of financial performance.
While its core business of racing performed ‘strongly’, he said the company’s pre-tax profit was ‘pulled back by two of our newer ventures’ – Winter Wonderland and Chester Rocks.
The 2014 instalment of the festive fantasy-land, which ended up losing £400,000, included a North Pole Village, vodka ice bar and land train but they failed to entice as many people as its debut the year before.
Attendance was less than half that achieved in 2013, which Mr Beaumont said was ‘against all our expectations’.
“This was despite an enormous amount of planning and work to ensure we delivered a first class event for the families of Chester and the North West,” he added.
Now it seems its future is in doubt.
As we reported last December, Winter Wonderland received mixed reviews in the Daily Telegraph’s coverage.
They wrote: “And it seems that the Magical Journey isn’t the only Christmas experience in the UK to fall short. Thus, Chester Winter Wonderland is described in one stinging online review as ‘a tacky theme park they charge you to walk through’.
“Possibly, some visitors’ hopes are too high: ‘I had been to Lapland in Finland and thought it would be along the same lines’.”
Of its 210 visitor reviews on Tripadvisor, 92 rated it ‘terrible’.
Poor ticket sales
In February this year, plans to bring back music festival Chester Rocks for a fifth outing were scrapped.
Chief executive of Chester Racecourse Richard Thomas said their summer schedule was ‘too busy’ to find a date that worked.
Mr Beaumont attributed its ‘significant’ £200,000 loss in 2014 to ‘poor’ ticket sales.
But results for Chester Race Company Limited for 2014 – which it describes as an ‘incredibly busy and successful year’ – show a pre-tax profit of £2.5m, and turnover rose from £26.1m to £26.8m.
Total attendance for the year was 295,003 compared with 286,737 in 2013, representing a 3% increase.
“Chester Rocks and Winter Wonderland were very disappointing but it is important that we continue to pursue new opportunities,” Mr Beaumont added.
“Racing, as always, is our primary focus and is complemented by the activities taking place around it.
“It is our firm intention to focus on our core products and significantly improve profitability.”
Did you go to Winter Wonderland? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below