Serving the 'Staycation' Crowds
The current economic downturn promises to alter the way many Americans spend their summers in 2009 and perhaps into the future. More than one-third of consumers surveyed in an April 2009 Harris Interactive poll said they were less likely to travel in the next 12 months due to economic conditions. Nearly half plan to vacation closer to home to save money; a third will try to stretch their dollars by going on "staycations" near home or sharing travel costs with friends or other families.
Given these conditions, park and recreation departments have a golden opportunity—and some would say, a civic responsibility—to expand their reach and serve this growing audience with impactful and entertaining programming options. Many communities across the country have already found a mobile stage to be an ideal, cost-effective solution.
Q: How can a mobile stage help our community?
A: "Our mobile stage is used for almost everything you can imagine," said Gordie Johnson, county supervisor in Marshall County, Iowa. The mobile stage goes to the county fair and other communities in the county, including every festival in Marshall County. He said the primary season lasts six months, and the stage is out virtually every weekend, Friday through Sunday, and sometimes the middle of the week.
Before purchasing a mobile stage, Marshall County used a wooden portable stage for events held in front of the county courthouse. Johnson said the stage took a half-day to bolt together and another half-day to take down, and it was neither safe nor OSHA-compliant.
With the help of a local leadership organization and the Rotary club, enough funds were raised to purchase the mobile stage and fund its ongoing maintenance. Local communities wishing to rent the stage pay for delivery, setup and take-down, with one county employee monitoring the entire event. The fee structure is designed to help the county cover expenses—not make a profit.
Q: We would like to reduce labor costs for our events. Will a mobile stage help with that?
A: "Our mobile stage has been great so far," said Jennifer DeArmey, park operations supervisor with Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks in Columbia, Md. "Setup is a breeze—we just push a button."
She added that the labor savings is a big advantage, and the new mobile stage is much easier on her staff. Using their older portable stage took at least four hours with a four- or six-man crew; the new mobile stage can be set up by a two-man crew in a half-hour or less. DeArmey said the new mobile stage enables the popular outdoor concert series to serve multiple parks.
Q: Can we use our mobile stage to boost revenues?
A: "Before buying our mobile stage, we used an old utility trailer that was converted into a stage," said Richard Blankenship, parks and recreation director at Martin County Parks & Recreation in Stuart, Fla.
He added that the old stage was heavily used around town, and they were having bigger and bigger events. "We felt we needed a community stage for our events that we could also rent out," he explained.
Deciding factors about which mobile stage to purchase included mobility and ease of operation for setting up and taking down. The unit includes remote control operation of the canopy and stage, featuring auto-leveling; it also includes the accessory stage-lighting package.
"Our mobile stage has completely replaced that old trailer-stage, and is probably used five times per month on average," Blankenship said. "It's used for all types of events, such as concerts, parades and ground-breaking ceremonies."
Sixty percent of the mobile stage jobs are rentals around Martin County. The daily rental rate includes a one-man crew to handle the unit.