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Feature Article - September 2004

Automation Realizations

Technological streamlining can make facility management easier and more efficient

By Kyle Ryan


To call the old program-registration system at Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation "inefficient" would be too generous.

"We had continual complaints from patrons because they'd have to physically go to a site in order to register to go to a summer camp at one facility," says Michael Brett, Smartlink manager for the Prince George's parks department. "They'd have to go stand in line there. In some cases, the lines started forming at 4 or 5 in the morning."

It gets worse.

"If they wanted one two-week session there and another two-week session somewhere else," Brett continues, "they'd have to physically leave that site and go to the other, which also probably had a line. So they certainly wouldn't get in."

This is the system the Prince George's parks department used for years, up until December 2002. The county, located just outside Washington, D.C., on the Maryland side, is home to nearly 900,000 people. The parks department runs 37 recreation centers, nine pools, an equestrian center, a large community center and even an airport.

Considering the system they had in place, the Prince George's parks department is lucky they only had complaints, not armed uprisings. Brett knew it would have to change.

"The driving force in that was customer service primarily," Brett says. Now the department's 110 remote sites connect to a centralized Windows database. People can register in person, on the Internet or over the phone using the same database the parks department uses. Customers can register at one facility for a program at another. It's streamlined, it's efficient, it makes for happier patrons.

That's what it boils down to, really: Happier customers make for better business. Behind the scenes, efficient technology management can save you money and time, no matter what type of recreation facility you run.