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MetraPark finished the 2000-01 fiscal year with an operating surplus of $71,580. That’s a significant turnaround after facing a $375,000 deficit at this time last year, Metra officials said Tuesday

The red ink started flowing after lower-than-anticipated attendance at last year’s MontanaFair. General Manager Bill Chiesa said MetraPark whittled away at the deficit by launching an aggressive cost-cutting crusade. Several unanticipated revenue-generating events also helped the bottom line.

“We cut out travel and any unnecessary expenses. Every department sucked it up,” Chiesa said at Tuesday’s meeting of the MetraPark Board of Directors.

Chiesa said the Women of Faith conference, which attracted 10,000 women to Metra, was one of several unanticipated events that helped Metra’s bottom line through the fiscal year, which ended June 30.

MetraPark Comptroller Bob Todd said everybody at Metra pitched in to save money. Construction projects were cut, utility bills were monitored and Metra held the line on other expenses.

“It’s hard to make up that big of a deficit, but everybody did an excellent job,” Todd said.

Chiesa was encouraged by the number of livestock entries for the 2001 MontanaFair. As of Tuesday, entries for beef cattle are running ahead of last year. Entries for sheep and goats are running about even with last year and swine entries are also up compared to last year.

MetraPark is hoping for better attendance for this year’s night acts. The Metra has already sold enough tickets to cover expenses for the Chris Ledoux show Aug 13. Ticket sales still have a way to go before the break-even point for the Aug. 11 Sheryl Crow concert, Chiesa said.

An all-star indoor football game takes place Aug. 17, and a trio of heavy metal bands invade Metra Aug. 10.

Tom Howard can be reached at 657-1261 or at thoward@billingsgazette.com

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