We Live, And Plan, In Reality

Whatever kind of facility you're running—indoor pool, a park with playgrounds and sports fields, a community center, a fitness club—it takes careful planning to get things right. That's true if you're starting from scratch with a brand-new building or site, or if you're making changes or planning programs at a park or facility that's been around for decades. And you don't make those plans in a bubble. You have to rely on the data you can uncover. The more, the better.

Your plans should take all kinds of things into account: the nature of the community or members you serve, and how that might change over time; the local climate and environment, and how that might change over time; the budget you have to work with, and how that might change over time; the technologies and tools available to you, and how those might change over time. And so on.

Let's say you're planning to build something new—a park, a sports complex or a campus recreation center, for example. To begin, you might survey your community to find out how well your facility will be supported. But what happens if your community survey delivers information that you don't like? Information that you wish weren't true? That doesn't mean you can dismiss it. You have to adapt, or you'll find yourself on the hook in the end.

In the long term, no matter what you're planning, you'll be better off if you work within the parameters of a reality that's, well, real.

Let's say, for example, you're planning to design and build a recreation center in your community. There's a whole lot of information you'll need to take into account, but let's look at just one piece of information, for the sake of making this point: crime. If crime is a problem in the community where you're planning to build (and this is fairly easy information to obtain), you'll probably want to plan some additional security measures for your facility. Depending on the type of facility you're developing, you might also want to plan ahead for programming that helps address this particular community need: tutoring and after-school programs; programs that give teens a place to recreate constructively. If you're planning a park site, you might work to get the community actively involved in the development, since it's generally the case that when a community is more involved, they'll do a better job of keeping the site safe and relatively free from trouble.

Hopefully, no crime ever troubles your facility, but you have to accept the reality of that possibility and plan for it.

Is it possible to overestimate those kinds of possibilities? Of course. And everyone walks the tightrope of risk, eventually, when making decisions based on an uncertain future state. You just have to take into account possibilities and worst-case scenarios, and decide which risks are worth taking.

Take, for example, a plan for a waterfront development. These days, any plan that doesn't account for possible flooding is probably foolish. What if you're planning a sports field? How would you handle a long-term drought?

What kinds of information do you collect when making plans for your facility? And how do you think the process of gathering information could be improved?


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management

[email protected]