Guest Column - January 2009
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Design Corner: Partnering for Win-Win Results

By Mike Williams


ark agency leaders who are planning a facility project might find it worthwhile to consider collaborating with other organizations in their community to achieve mutually beneficial facility goals, goals which may be challenging to attain or out of reach altogether without the financial weight that combined assets can bring.

Among partners to consider for a joint facility development effort are other similarly focused agencies or governmental entities with unfulfilled building needs, as well as private organizations with compatible objectives in seeking a new facility solution.

The range of facilities that make sense for considering collaborative opportunities, and which can work from a programming/usage standpoint, include community and recreation centers, as well as office, maintenance or even entertainment facilities.

Exercise to Entertainment

While other public entities can be a logical fit, park agencies may wish to examine the mix of organizations in their community to see whether there are private institutions or businesses, or not-for-profit organizations with compatible missions, that present potential opportunities for discussing a joint facility development effort.

A public-private partnership between a Midwest park district and a professional sports team, for example, was forged to expand a recreation center through a $14 million construction project that introduced to the venue two ice arenas and various associated amenities, including office and fitness facilities for both entities. The joint effort promised the sports team, a hockey league franchise, a new, modern practice facility, as well as a platform from which to promote youth hockey programs and offer skill development opportunities. For the public-sector participant, the Hoffman Estates (Ill.) Park District, the endeavor offered the opportunity to collaborate with a respected professional sports organization to achieve financial benefits and simultaneously enhance park agency programs through the affiliation.

Of course, athletic activities are only one aspect of programming that public park agencies typically provide. Educational and cultural opportunities are others. Another Midwest park district, through synergies arising out of community cooperation, took possession of a local theater, where it conducts park programs.

While not collaboration in the strictest sense, in the arrangement wherein the Champaign Park District in Central Illinois acquired a historic theater, debt associated with the facility was excused by the municipality in which it is located. Foundation and grant funding allowed for restoration of the landmark, which now provides a place for park district theatrical activities, such as dance class recitals, as well as for hosting professional performing arts acts for community entertainment.