Facility Profile - September 2005
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The Blog Spot
Illinois Park and Recreation Association

By Stacy St. Clair

As a scorching summer sun beat down on the Cialis Western Open this past summer, scores of volunteers worked behind the scenes to make the event happen.

The golf tournament's largest contingent of volunteers came from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association (IPRA). Roughly 400 members spent a week in late June and early July ensuring the popular event ran smoothly.

They staffed a day-care center for the children of PGA golfers. They ran the pro shop and told spectators where to park.

Their efforts at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Ill., might have gone unnoticed, too, if not for the efforts of the computer-savvy association. The IPRA launched a Web log—known as The Blog Spot—earlier this year. The site, which is being billed as the nation's first blog aimed at recreation professionals, features up-to-the minute news, chat rooms, pictures and polls.

"Creating The Blog Spot increases the number of ways IPRA can communicate directly with our members," said Matt White, communication and marketing manager for the IPRA. "We are firm believers in technology and we wanted to provide something fresh and unique to the parks and recreation field. No one out there is doing what we are doing."

Throughout the Western Open, White posted frequent updates about volunteers' activities and the tournament itself. He wrote of the course's pristine condition despite an ongoing drought and showed pictures of golfers—and association members—at work.

Web logs began as an underground medium used to give voice to independent ideas and opinions.

In recent years, however, blogs have become increasingly conventional.

Many media outlets now have bloggers, and commercial businesses have embraced the trend as well as a marketing tool. Their popularity stems from their ability to connect with the end-user in a way that sparks conversation and promotes brand awareness.

The IPRA launched the site after receiving feedback from its more than 2,700 members. In response to an online survey, members said they would appreciate technological advancements that made communication and learning easier.

In addition to The Blog Spot, the association redesigned its Web site, created an electronic newsletter and developed a staff-utilized Intranet. It also has plans to launch an online cooperative purchase program for its members to buy bulk supplies and equipment at significant savings.

"We are continually expanding our resources and using technology to advance the professional careers of our members," says Dean Comber, the association's IT manager. "We have some of the brightest park and recreation professionals here in Illinois, so we must keep up with the times and be able to provide them with the resources needed to succeed and grow."