Feature Article - March 2009
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Save Some Green

Smart Cost-Cutting Strategies

By Dawn Klingensmith

Not Business as Usual

Let's part ways with Joe for a spell and tour a few cities for a clearer sense of what's happening in the industry, and some tough decisions that are being made as a result. In Chicago, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum announced in October that it had cut 16 percent of its staff after seeing a 45 percent drop—about $588,000—in income during the first two months of the fiscal year. The museum brought in $1.32 million during the same period a year ago. In Sandusky, Ohio, two of the city's three major waterparks, Great Wolf Lodge and Castaway Bay, are no longer open Tuesdays and Wednesdays because they weren't generating enough midweek revenues. Likewise, in June 2008, Campus Recreation at UC Davis, part of the University of California system, announced it would reduce the hours of operation for its popular Rec Pool by eight hours per week due to budget reductions.

"There were some trials due to the fact that we changed the hours mid-season, which is unusual for this type of facility. Patrons check the hours at the beginning of the season and don't expect them to vary," said Janna Tolla, assistant director of aquatics. "But overall, our patrons accepted and understood the reasons for the change."

She added, "We are keeping the new hours for the 2009 season, as overall it was a good change. The schedule was developed by evaluating our usage patterns and peak visit periods. We inconvenienced very few patrons, and maintained our user numbers and revenue goals."

Reducing operating hours in response to budget woes would not have gone over as smoothly at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. That's because in the summer of 2007, students were already complaining to officials and local news media because the campus Recreation Center was open fewer hours than any other major university rec center nearby. SIUC's Recreational Sports and Services department said closing relatively early was necessary because of the energy costs required to keep the building operating. In addition, minimum wage increased by a dollar, so staffing presented a hardship, as well.

Responsive to students' concerns, SIUC conducted an energy audit to find ways to cut utility costs and increase efficiency, enabling the Recreation Center to extend its hours of operation.