Feature Article - July 2010
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Try That on for Size

Small Communities Take On Big Recreation Amenities

By Jessica Royer Ocken


Understand Your Budget

While you're brainstorming ideas and prioritizing your community's wish list, it's a good idea to concurrently get a handle on the finances available for your project. Working on these two tasks together will help keep you grounded in reality.

Getting a recreation or fitness project off the ground is "a very iterative process," Rogers said. "You don't just go in."

You have to ask: What is your budgetary capacity? What sort of membership (and membership fees) can you realistically expect? What sort of capital campaign might your town be willing to support?

"In this process you get to identify what are the things of highest value … and what are the things that maybe at a certain budget level can't be justified financially," Rogers said.

There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, just don't go broke. Perhaps you'll do your construction in phases, but if you have a grand vision for the future, why not get it organized now? One of the driving forces behind the Forney Community Park project was not just the town's current population, but the needs they anticipated for future Forney residents.

Although Curry hoped to build the whole project at once, Forney had never passed (or even proposed) a bond issue to its residents before. And, in addition to the park, there were various items like a new police station and some highways and bridges that needed funding. So, they settled on phase one for now, but are continuing to make plans and purchase land for phase two and beyond in the years ahead.

Make Your Spaces Multitask

Once you decide to invest in some snazzy new spaces, make sure you structure them to serve a variety of functions. This might mean including actual multipurpose space in your renovation or construction plans, or it could mean choosing amenities and features that can be used by an array of people at different times.

For example, the SoNo Field House includes a climbing wall and an indoor challenge course.

"There aren't too many around," Panza noted. "The challenge course is an obstacle course elevated 28 or 30 feet in the air, and you have to scramble or build a ladder to get on it. It's great for teambuilding."

Those interested in teambuilding often are corporate types who visit the Field House for this purpose during the weekdays—a time when there might not otherwise be much going on.

"Generally, recreation is done between 3 p.m. and midnight, so this organization has said, 'we'll look at events we can have during the day,'" Panza explained. The challenge course's indoor location makes it weatherproof, and the Field House's soccer and lacrosse fields also are available for corporate use. In addition, well-appointed meeting rooms that overlook the action are perfect for post-challenge-course conferences or corporate training.

On the weekends, these spots can be rented for private parties, adding yet another revenue-generating option to SoNo's arsenal.

Parks Director Curry said that Forney Community Park also includes a variety of pavilion spaces available for private party or corporate rentals, so it's not just privately owned facilities that can tap into that market for some added support.