The Somervell County Expo and Texas Ampitheatre have staged more events this year than last, but atttendance is down about 10 percent.

Mike Dooley, facilities manager, delivered that news to the Somervell County Commissioners Court Tuesday morning. The figures indicate that the economic downturn continues to impact tourism, one of the county's and city's major business sectors.

“We see things happening this year that are highly unusual,” Dooley said. “We have more events, more event days, but fewer people are coming.”

That means events are costing the county more.

In September the Expo and Ampitheatre held 17 events, eight of them being “The Promise” passion play. Attendance at all events last month rose slightly to 10,254 from 9,022 a year ago.

For the 2009-2010 year, the Expo and Ampitheatre have hosted a total of 162 events, up from 141 a year earlier, and 277 event days compared with 245 a year earlier. But attendance so far is 101,466 compared with 113,320 in the same period a year ago.

“Attendance for the month and year is down about 10 percent,” Dooley said. “This yearly number is about 10 percent down from our record year of 2008.

“I do not see a worsening of attendance either in gross numbers or individual events,” he added. “However, our regular horse shows will not improve much until the economy is substantially better.”

Boosting the number of events and event days were more Ampitheatre events, including “The Land of the Dinosaurs” play this summer, the addition of the American Junior Rodeo Association finals at the Expo and overcoming the loss of Booger Barter's events after he died last year.

Next year's total number of events may be off depending on how well the “Land of the Dinosaurs” and Robert Polley's “Battle of the Bands” do, Dooley said. “Land of the Dinosaurs” plans to cut back from four days to two days — Friday and Saturday — next year. The play was funded by investors and an $80,000 loan from the Glen Rose Economic Development Corporation.

Two major events could help offset any decline in the gross numbers, Dooley said. The Bonanza Cutting event will be held in February and the Championship Bull Riding Finals, which had been held in Fort Worth, will be at the Expo in June. Both events came from long-term events at larger venues and could be “huge additions” to the Expo's calendar, Dooley noted.

Commissioners previously approved a rate increase for the Expo for the 2011 budget year, which started Oct. 1. That should help with revenues, Dooley added. So far no shows have canceled because of the higher rates, but some smaller events may move to other venues that cost less by offering fewer services, he said.

County Judge Walter Maynard noted that player activity is down at Squaw Valley Golf Course this year as well.

“People are not spending their money right now,” he said. “We just have to work through it.”