Improving communities through sport

4 Partners for Parks and Recreation Systems

In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Parks and recreation systems throughout our country hold the key to creating dramatically positive outcomes both from a physical and economic standpoint. From increasing property values to increasing test scores for afterschool program attendees to the reduction of air and water pollution, statistics abound about the impact parks and recreation systems have on our communities. And in the age of the Coronavirus, these facilities give us both a sense of normalcy and a central place to organize outreach efforts.

However, as parks and recreation systems give so much to our communities, they need just as much back from the businesses and individuals around them. They often don’t have the resources necessary to optimize, develop innovative programming, or grow as their cities grow. Partnerships are often the key to filling the gap.

In this article, we will highlight several partnership types that can elevate a parks and recreation agency. Partnerships with these businesses and organizations can raise the profile of the agency itself, generate revenue, fulfill critical needs, and help develop new programming.

Partnerships between Medical Systems and Parks and Recreation

Primarily, hospitals and recreation centers have different functions within our society. Where they meet is in the desire to promote health and wellness among our citizens. This is, in part, why medical systems are looking to parks and recreation assets as partners in wellness programming. As partners, hospital staff provide the expertise to develop effective programming while recreation centers provide the space and the audience.  The system itself can provide funding and instant credibility.

Beyond programming, hospital systems are working with parks and recreation agencies to develop health and wellness centers in underserved areas. The National Recreation and Parks Association highlights one such partnership in Dallas, TX where 10 years ago, Baylor Scott & White Health opened a health and wellness center at a recreation center in South Dallas. Along with a clinic, the health system offers fitness and evidence-based intervention programs.

Partnerships between Schools and Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation systems and local schools have a natural connection because they are both agents of growth for America’s youth. The concept of partnerships between these two entities is nothing new. However, it’s critical for parks and recreation agencies to continue to consider these partnerships as a way to garner additional resources and reduce expenses.

For years, schools have utilized parks and recreation assets for athletics and afterschool programs. Now these partnerships are serving as catalysts for the development of new facilities. Research conducted by the Center for Cities and Schools at the University of California at Berkley highlighted the importance of joint use facilities as a method for addressing issues such as childhood obesity and access to recreation. Several examples were given including River City High School near Sacramento, CA, which was built with an accompanying recreation and aquatic center. The facility also houses several outdoor athletic fields.

Partnerships between Businesses and Parks and Recreation

It’s critical that the local business community around parks and recreation assets step up to offer support from a financial and programmatic standpoint. However, it’s not a one-way street. Parks are serving businesses in innovative ways as well.

For example, thousands of people come to local parks, making them a great source for data. At the recent Florida Recreation and Parks Association conference, the example of checking license plates to determine the location of people attending certain events was used. Also, certain items on the automobiles such as car dealership stickers can give insight into consumer preferences. This information can be used to establish partnerships with local companies.   

Partnerships between Non-profit Organizations and Parks and Recreation

Collaborating with organizations that share a similar mission represents an important opportunity for parks and recreation assets. There are many examples of this, but one of the more unique ones is a partnership between the St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department and the Sages Theater. The local non-profit theater produced a play geared towards seniors titled “Defying Gravity”, which promotes fall prevention and raises awareness about the dangers of falling. The play is being shown at the St. Pete Parks’ Sunshine Senior Center, a recreation center for the area’s senior population.

It’s also important to note the role that “friends of parks” organizations play in elevating parks and recreation systems. Through the years, these organizations have not only served as strong community advocates, but they continually raise money and help make physical improvements to parks. In many ways, their commitment is what drives the positive outcomes that parks can provide.

At the Sports Facilities Companies, we are committed to supporting parks and recreation agencies with services like recreation master planning and optimization studies. Contact us today at 727-474-3845.

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