Feature Article - July 2012
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A Wealth of Options

Getting Programming Right for Multipurpose Facilities

By Dawn Klingensmith

Plantation, Fla., also looks at the unique makeup and needs of the community to guide program decisions.

"I do believe our trends in South Florida are a little different than the rest of the country. We have a lot of cultural diversity and a large population of active seniors," said Superintendent of Facilities Shannon Ryan. "A few trends in the last few years have been programming for active seniors, adult athletics and environmental education. We are programming a number of classes for healthy living directed toward seniors," including nutrition classes, balance seminars, water aerobics and yoga.

"We will need to continue to offer programming that is attractive to this group and meets their social and fitness needs," Ryan said.

On the multicultural front, "We have popular Latin fitness classes like Zumba and classes offered in Spanish," she said.

Partners in Programming

In Boulder, if a proposed program meets a community need and supports the Guiding Principles, the department then decides whether to outsource instruction or implementation, or both. "We're trending toward more contracting because staff resources are so stretched," Olander said. "We can hire an instructor for a city-run program at a city facility or put up to bid to see if someone will implement a program in a city facility."

In Plantation, "We contract with outside instructors for almost all of our classes," Ryan said.

Having built an outdoor nature classroom, the parks and rec department partnered with a local nature center to offer programs with an environmental curriculum. "The program is well-received and the feedback is positive. We have also incorporated it into our summer camp programming," Ryan said.

When "trendy" programming requires a financial investment, such as a new outdoor classroom, "We ask the neighborhood for their input and determine if the investment is desired and likely to have longevity," Ryan said. "We are always looking for other sources of funding, such as grants, sponsorships and partnerships."

Boulder actively pursues partnerships to reduce expenses, increase revenues and provide additional recreation services. Recreation programs offered by outside organizations at City of Boulder facilities range from softball and soccer to synchronized swimming. The recreation department partnered with a local dinner theater to offer drama camps in a city facility. Participants act out a different fairy tale every week. In partnership with the senior center, the department offers cooking classes. The program rounds out the department's efforts to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Boulder's Recreation Program Plan states that if a program is already offered in community, the department won't duplicate it unless there is sufficient, compelling demand. In addition, all programs must take place in a city facility, even those offered in partnership with an outside entity. While it may seem like a good idea to have, say, a professional photographer offer a program in his or her well-equipped studio, "it doesn't help expose people to rec centers," Olander said, "plus you lose quality control."

In Boulder, "We were getting all these calls from people wanting to partner, but what they meant is they wanted us to do their marketing" and take advantage of the rec department's reach, she added.

The department also has developed and implemented changes to pricing and fee structures, aiming to become self-sustaining. Boulder recovers 85 percent or more of costs through fees and charges. Certain high-priority, or "core," programs are subsidized, but merely "desirable" programs must generate sufficient revenues to offset costs.