Feature Article - June 2007
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Building Active, Involved Communities

Community Fitness

Community centers and fitness centers, as well as indoor sports courts, were also top choices for additions to parks and recreation facilities, and represent just one more way these organizations can get their communities together to get active.

Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control determined that creating places where people can get active can lead to a 25 percent increase in the number of people who exercise at least three times a week. By adding a community center with a fitness area, as well as multipurpose rooms to serve various programming needs—from mind/body classes like yoga to educational programs—park districts can help provide their communities with a low-cost fitness option.

But with increasing budget pressures, it can be difficult to figure out ways to get all of the requested activities into one center.

"With a limited amount of revenue coming in the door, we have to think harder and smarter about everything we program," Atilano said. "Multipurpose is the key. You need to be flexible to deal with new trends. Who would have thought that Pilates and Spinning would be the current hot trends? The main thing is to have a building that's flexible enough to respond to those changes."

Another key to flexibility is to figure out ways to incorporate multiple demographics—which might have had their own centers before—into a single facility.

"The whole focus on the senior center and the resources put toward senior centers are going to be blended into these lifestyle centers, or whatever they're going to end up calling them," Bouck said. "It's becoming harder to justify dedicating so many resources to one group. And people don't want to be sequestered anyway."

Another way to improve the efficiency of the community center is to use the space wisely. According to Atilano, that means planning to use some space for programs that have revenue-generating potential.

"We're seeing more of a focus on space allocations," Atilano said. "When we're developing a program, we can take the same square footage that we'd use for a gymnasium and put it into fitness, which has a greater potential for revenue. If you want some big-volume spaces, that's great, but let's also look at what's going to help you stay out of the red, so you can offset other programs where there's a 50-50 chance you're going to make money."