There’s power in the places where people gather. Parks, recreation centers, and sports venues have long been the hubs for social activity from leagues and tournaments to camps to silver sneakers. And while the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily put these activities on hold, it can’t dull the power the facilities themselves. In fact, these community gathering places in many ways hold the keys to economic recovery. According to the National Recreation and Parks Association’s (NRPA) report Economic Impact of Parks, in 2017, park and recreation departments generated more than $166 billion in U.S. economic activity and supported 1.1 million jobs from their operations and capital spending.
Sports venues and community parks and recreations centers can also provide the sense of normalcy that so many of us crave and that’s why they are so widely supported by people throughout the United States. According to NRPA’s 2018 American’s Engagement with Parks Report, 78 percent of Americans want an increase in parks and recreation funding and 90 percent of Americans agree that parks & recreation is an important local government service.
However, in times of economic challenge, parks and recreation funding is often cut in favor of what’s perceived to be more urgent despite numerous studies challenging this notion. Data from these studies indicate that the presence of parks and recreation facilities have led to increased property values, improved health outcomes and better academic outcomes in many cities.
In this article, we will examine how parks and recreation assets are leading the charge towards economic recovery.
Business Evaluation During Closure
Whether you remain closed or are close to re-opening, now is time to ensure that your facilities are operationally efficient and providing the highest level of service to guests. Are the physical structures in good condition? Do repairs need to be made either now or in the coming months? Now’s the time to review safety and cleaning practices, along with all other operational procedures. This is also the time to review your technological capabilities. Do they help your employees meet the needs of your guests?
A budgetary and strategic planning review will be key during this time as well. Initial revenue and spending projections must now be adjusted to reflect current circumstances and to best position facilities for a strong, positive re-opening.
Strategic Planning for Reopening
Many of us have a strong desire to facilities operate at the level that did prior to the pandemic. To accomplish this safely and successfully will require a strategic effort that takes into account four crucial considerations:
How to build consumer confidence: In a short time, consumer behavior has shifted dramatically. They demand a high level of safety and cleanliness from your assets. Efficiently meeting this desire will inform people’s decision to attend events and participate in programming at your facility.
What makes our park and recreation spaces and activities safer and healthier: Best practices must be sought out and implemented. Thankfully, there are several resources available to aid in this process, including our COVID-19 Response Guide.
Mitigating risk: Beyond the consumers’ desire for clean environments, is the need to keep them and employees safe. Creating and following a safety protocol is an essential part of operations as is connecting with your local health board. They could be an ally in your facility’s efforts to re-open.
What resources are required operationally: As you evaluate your budget, resources that facilitate a clean and safe environment must be procured. This may include hand sanitizing stations and heavy duty cleaners, among other items.
Beyond these considerations, it’s important to think how you bring employees that have been temporarily laid off or furloughed back to your organizations. While you may not be able to bring them back immediately, it’s important to keep in communication with them. This is especially true for larger facilities.
Operational Considerations & Procedures for Reopening
With safety taking on paramount importance, it must be the central part of your re-opening plan. Along with creating a task force to seek out best practices for establishing a clean and safe environment, the following procedures should be conducted during this process:
- Creating COVID-19 guidelines for reopening
- Determining the number of guests allowed at a given time
- Creating a re-opening operational checklist
- Producing FAQ documentation for parents/customers
Communication and Community Messaging
It’s not enough to implement new procedures, it must be shared to the public as well. New procedures must be communicated both on-site at the facility as well as within the community. At your venues, signage displaying social distancing policies, for example, are important. In promoting your re-opening, messaging surrounding new safety policies will help bolster consumer confidence in your facility.
Why Revenue Generation Is Important to Recovery
With recession-related budget cuts looming, it’s more important than ever to not only develop new revenue generation strategies and adjust current ones, but to be able report on their effectiveness to policymakers. There have always been competitors in the marketplace, however, a focus on customer service, innovation, and the development of new revenue streams are the keys to getting and staying ahead of them. This is also the time to review all aspects of operations and determine how greater efficiency can be achieved. This type of examination can not only save money but present additional revenue opportunities.
For guidance in all phases of the re-opening process, contact us today at 727-474-3845.