A Calm and Orderly Guide to the Future of Winnebago County Parks & Sunnyview Expo Center


Data collection is a key determinant in the future growth of Winnebago County’s facilities. To allocate funding at a municipal government level for updating or improving facilities there must be significant documented justification of the need for such projects. Economic impact studies are just one of the means used to collect this data. Other factors include; maintenance costs and upkeep, life expectancy of the facility, safety issues and access. Public input carries significant weight when considering funding for future projects within the County.

How do Parks effect the economy nationally, state-wide and locally? And where do tourism dollars fit in to the equation here in Winnebago County?

There have been dozens of studies undertaken over many years by many entities creating a dizzying array of data, but the most respected of these studies come from the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) and from the WI Department of Tourism. Thus a calm and orderly approach to data analysis using these studies as a guide and model is currently taking place.

Here are some facts taken directly from the NRPA publication on the organization’s study of the economic impact of local parks and recreation across the nation.

According to the findings of a new economic impact study commissioned by NRPA, the nation’s local and regional parks generate nearly $154 billion in economic activity per year and support nearly 1.1 million jobs.

FAQs: The Economic Impact of Local Parks

Why is it important to measure the economic impact of local and regional public park agencies?

Public parks are important contributors to the standard of living in our neighborhoods, with benefits spanning from environmental gains and improved health to being a central meeting place that brings residents across ages and social strata together. But in a time of scarce resources and tight fiscal budgets, park and recreation agencies have to fight for funding needed to continue serving their mission.

A number of local and regional park agencies have conducted studies on the value of the economic activity their system has had on their local community, focusing on spending, tourism and property values. Until now, however, there has been no national study that estimates the economic contribution of the thousands of local and regional park agencies in the United States. NRPA commissioned this study to fill this gap and to inform discussions and debates with policymakers and key stakeholders on the importance of investing in public parks.

What is included in the estimate of economic activity?

The Economic Impact of Local Parks study provides estimates of the direct, indirect and induced effects of local and regional park agency spending on the economy. The spending included in the study includes both annual operations and capital expenditures. The report includes estimates of economic output, value added (i.e., GDP), employment and labor income.

These are conservative estimates of the economic impact of local and regional park agencies. What is not included in the analysis?

As powerful as the figures presented in this report are, they are conservative measures of the economic impact of local and regional parks. The reason is this study exclusively focused on the economic impact of local and regional park agency’s spending. Other economic benefits not included in this study were:

  • Visitor spending: Since this is a national study, the vast majority of local and regional park visitors are from domestic origins and therefore have a net sum zero economic impact on a national basis (although the local impacts can be significant). Example: Most of the non-local visitors to a park in one town likely came from other nearby localities or at least somewhere else in the United States.
  • Other economic benefits: The research does not measure benefits that park systems generate for the environment, health/wellness and property values.
  • Spending on depreciable capital spending: Estimates of capital spending in this study do not include usual spending appearing in annual budgets for depreciable assets. As a result, these estimates likely understate the total value of park system spending and their economic consequences.

The numbers for the State of Wisconsin are:

$1,564,034,216 in economic activity (transactions)

$557,893,058 of labor income

13,268 jobs associated with local parks and recreation facilities

$271.00 economic activity per capita

NRPA commissioned the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University to conduct the research that is the basis of The Economic Impact of Local Parks report. The work was led by Dr. Terry Clower and was supported by his team of researchers during the summer and fall of 2015.

To review the report and methodology as well as a detailed analysis with case studies visit, www.nrpa.org/ParkEconReport.

Here’s what the WI Department of Tourism had to say about the state and Winnebago County using the latest numbers available on their web site. Tourists play an important role in the economic impact of parks and recreation in Winnebago County specifically at the Sunnyview Expo Center where people come from all over to attend events like regional horse shows, Lifest and numerous trade shows throughout the year.


Tourism had a $20 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2016, up $700 million or 3.5% from $19.3 billion in 2015. The total six-year growth of tourism activity is up more than $5.2 billion, a 35% increase from $14.8 billion.

Visitor growth topped 107.7 million in 2016, a six-year increase of 15.2 million.

International travel in 2016 was up $100 million over 2015.

The tourism economy generated $1.5 billion in state and local revenue saving Wisconsin taxpayers $650 per household.

Tourism directly and indirectly supports 193,500 jobs in Wisconsin, a six-year addition of more than 21,500 jobs to the state’s total employment, an increase of 12.4%.

The tourism economy supports 35% of all recreation jobs and 23% of all food & beverage jobs in Wisconsin.

The WI Tourism Department tracks economic impact by county for each of the state’s 72 counties. The numbers for Winnebago County and the other top 10 counties are shown in the table below. Winnebago County broke into the top ten Wisconsin counties for tourism spending in 2015-2016. This is quite a feat considering most of the counties that came in higher on the list are either significantly larger in population and amenities or dedicated to a specific population of outdoors enthusiasts, for example deer hunters, campers and trout fishermen.

Winnebago County’s Tourism numbers for 2016 show:

$242,500,000 – Direct Visitor Spending up 3.74% from 2015

$364,800,000 – Total Business Sales up 3.74% from 2015

4,789 – Jobs up 1.08% from 2015

$134,100,00 – Total Labor Income up5.05% from 2015

$30,900,000 – State & Local Taxes up 2.40% from 2015


So to calmly sum up the importance of our economic impact studies it is noted that without public input there is no documented demand for improvements of facilities or new facilities for the future. Thus Winnebago County Parks needs public input to guide the future of our facilities. So please let us know how you Picture Yourself in Winnebago County Parks & Sunnyview Expo Center.




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Vicky Redlin

Winnebago County Parks & Sunnyview Expo Center Program Manager, Parks News editor, and frequent Facebook commentator.

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