Emily Attwood
Emily (emily@athleticbusiness.com) joined the Athletic Business team in 2011, a natural transition from her previous work at PFP (Personal Fitness Professional), a B2B fitness industry brand, and Inside Wisconsin Sports, a consumer sports publication. AB’s managing editor by day, Emily spends her nights typing away at what she hopes will someday turn into a novel that other people will find worth reading. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Emily continues to enjoy living in the city with her husband, Derek, and biking to work, except during winter, when she doesn't enjoy much of anything.
  • Thursday, January, 16, 2014
    CrossFit Community Rallies Around Paralyzed Athlete

    The CrossFit community was shaken earlier this week when one of its members was severely injured in what is being described as a freak accident. During a competition in California, Kevin Ogar, a trainer with CrossFit Unbroken in Englewood, Colo., severed his spine while doing a lift, leaving him permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

  • Thursday, January, 16, 2014
    New Projects: Broncos Centre | Weingart-Lakewood YMCA

    Breaking Ground

    A renovation of and addition to the Denver Broncos' Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre (pictured) is under way. The addition includes construction of a new 115,000-square-foot indoor practice facility with a full-length field, as well as locker room and auxiliary spaces. A 12,000-square-foot expansion will house a new kitchen and video operations and technology offices, and the lobby and current media room will also be renovated. The new field house was designed by Denver-based Sink Combs Dethlefs, and the facility renovations are being led by Intergroup Architects of Littleton, Colo.

  • Monday, January, 13, 2014
    Blog: Women-Only Fitness Zones Perpetuate Stereotypes

    Here at AB, it’s the editors’ job to stay on top of what’s happening in the industries we serve. As such, last Friday I came across an article about a gym in Vancouver getting some flak for its decision to close its women-only section. 

  • Thursday, December, 19, 2013
    New Projects: Nippert Stadium | Agoura Hills Rec | Almont Park

    Breaking Ground

    A renovation and expansion of the University of Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium (above) kicks off this month. The $86 million privately funded project will increase the stadium's capacity from 35,000 to 40,000 and include a new press box, suites and club seats. Renovations to the west concourse will include updates to the concessions stands and restrooms. Heery International, based in Atlanta, is lead architect on the project, which is expected to wrap up in August 2015.

  • Friday, December, 13, 2013
    Maximizing Field Use and Budgets with Seasonal Domes

    When the University of Cincinnati joined the Big East Conference in 2006, it was one of two member schools that didn't have an indoor practice facility for its athletic teams, an element the athletic department deemed essential if its teams wanted to stay competitive. Space for such a facility, however, was harder to come by.

  • Thursday, December, 12, 2013
    Partnership with TRX Instructor Brings Firemen’s Fitness In-House

    The Middleton, Wis., Fire District was looking for a solution to keep its 120-person volunteer force in shape. "What we do is pretty serious," says fire chief Aaron Harris. "In a moment's notice, we could be fighting a structure fire. The strains on the body, the heart — the number-one leading killer of a firefighter is heart attacks — it's something we wanted to address."

  • Wednesday, December, 11, 2013
    Addressing Crime on Park Basketball Courts

    After the September shooting of 13 people at a southside park in Chicago, the cry rose again: get basketball out of the parks. From gang violence and drug use to littering and foul language, park basketball courts have been hailed as a nuisance in many communities over the years, prompting residents to call for their removal.

    "We're fortunate that we're not like other areas with homicides occurring on a daily basis," Lafayette, Ind., police chief Pat Flannelly told The Journal Courier this summer in response to the city's decision to remove hoops at one of its parks, "and we intend to keep it that way."

    While they pale in comparison to gang violence, issues of noise and littering are a much more common example of the type of behavior that puts basketball courts in disfavor with neighbors. "The basketball rims at Memorial Park will be removed for two weeks," Williamsport, Pa., Mayor Gabriel Campana wrote to the Williamsport Sun Gazette this summer. "A lesson will be taught as a father and mother teaches their children. If the behavior improves, the courts will remain. If not, I will consider removing the basketball rims permanently. We cannot enable bad behavior."

    The extent to which basketball courts "enable bad behavior" and crime, however, has been blown out of proportion. A 2011 study published in Security Journal examined the incidence of crime in Philadelphia's neighborhood parks over a seven-month period. While the research did suggest that crime rates in park areas tended to be higher than the citywide crime rate, it was not the case with all parks. Moreover, the study found that any place that attracted crowds — a shopping mall, for example — tends to have a higher incidence of crime.

    Park basketball courts may not be the magnet for crime that some community members paint them out to be, but neither are they incident-free. So what can a parks and recreation department do to set up their basketball facilities (and end users) for success?

    The researchers behind the study in Security Journal considered a variety of other park factors and their relation to crime rates — accessibility, surveillance and guardianship, as well as "activity generators" such as recreational fields and courts. They found that the presence of activity spaces correlated to a decrease in crime rates in parks. The more activities available and the more organization, the more the crime level was reduced.

    Enter programs like Chicago's Windy City Hoops, which turns basketball at 11 Chicago parks in high-crime areas into an organized event. "In those communities, crime and violence have gone down," says Tony McCoy, a supervisor and 19-year veteran with the Chicago Park District. The program helps tackle one of the biggest issues plaguing the area: gang violence. "From my experience, any sport, not just basketball, helps with conflict resolution," says McCoy. "You get aggression out, you get exercise."

    Eleven sites serve 100 to 150 youths each, and the program is organized into six-week sessions. The role of the parks department in organizing and overseeing the games is crucial to their success, says McCoy. Teenagers are not the most exemplary members of society, though some are more mature than others. Generally speaking, giving them freedom without structure is a good way to set them up for trouble. "Basketball is one of those sports where you have disagreements and arguments," McCoy says. "But if you have strong mentors and good referees, it is successful."

    Proper planning also allows the program to address the gang tensions within communities. Says McCoy, "One kid might be in one gang and another in another gang, but they're both on the same basketball team. When you know each other, you're less likely to harm or have a conflict off the court. It doesn't eliminate it totally, but it helps."

    To bring down boundaries not just within communities but between communities, the program also ends each session with an organized all-star tournament. The tournaments will rotate between the participating parks, giving the youths a chance to interact with their peers from other communities and help familiarize them with more of the park district's facilities. "They look forward to it," says McCoy, who is just as excited about the program. "We'll mix them up and tear these barriers down, eliminate murders, shootings and criminal activity."

    Though McCoy admits that these larger issues won't be eliminated overnight, the program has already made a noticeable impact when it comes to combating the more common issues associated with basketball courts, such as litter and graffiti. "They care about the spot they're playing in," says McCoy. "They don't want to tear up where they're playing. They're taking ownership in their community."

    More than just irritating neighbors, disrespect for park facilities — if only in the form of litter — often makes other park visitors feel unwelcome or unsafe, as well as lays the ground for more serious altercations. Luckily, it doesn't take an organized league to tackle such issues.

    The City of Haverhill, Mass., dealt with noise and littering complaints this past summer when one of its parks went offline for renovations, resulting in increased use of another park. The first thing Vinny Ouellette, parks and recreation manager, did? "We went in and met with the players," he says. "We reminded them that they were in a neighborhood park and they should keep their language in check, as well as their noise level. They didn't realize it was getting out of control."

    The approach was respectful of the youth players and made them feel welcome. "It comes down to communicating," says Ouellette. "Get out there and let them know that the park is there for them but that there's a responsibility that goes along with that."

    Treating the youths like responsible adults was more effective than temporarily taking away hoops to teach a lesson, as some communities such as Williamsport have tried. As for the issue of additional litter around the courts, the parks department enlisted additional help to keep the area clean. "We have a church group bring volunteers to help clean," Ouellette says. "The park really has been kept up, which gives incentive to the users to keep things picked up. They know that we care and others care, so they take the time to pick up bottles before they leave."

    Creating a connection between park amenities and their users, whether through organized programming or simply interacting with users, can offer benefits that go beyond more peaceful parks. After talking with users and identifying the need for more outlets to play during the winter months, Ouellette was able to arrange for more indoor facilities to be open for their use, and opened the door for other programs, as well. "Once we get them inside, we can talk with them about job programs, education programs," he says. "We can help them take advantage of those programs."

  • Sunday, October, 20, 2013
    New Projects: Half Acre Gymnasium; Spring Hill (Va.) RECenter; Munson Stadium

    The University of Wyoming has broken ground on a two-phase renovation and expansion of its Half Acre Gymnasium (pictured). The renovated facility will feature a new entrance and lounge, academic space for the Kinesiology/Health and Theater/Dance departments, new racquetball courts, expanded outdoor program space, a climbing wall and expanded fitness spaces.

  • Sunday, October, 20, 2013
    Addressing Water Damage to Hardwood Courts

    It's a scene no facility manager wants to walk into on a Monday morning: a gym flooded with water.

  • Sunday, October, 20, 2013
    Safeguarding Youth Sports Programs Against Embezzlement

    On a sunny Saturday morning, as parents gather along the sidelines and chatter idly while their children warm up for a morning of soccer practice, the last thing on anyone's mind or lips are questions about the financial records of the organization.

  • Wednesday, September, 16, 2015
    Blog: Quantifying the Impact of Parks and Rec

    The National Park and Recreation Association's annual convention is underway this week in Las Vegas, Nev. After arriving Monday afternoon and getting my first taste of life in the City of Lights, I caught a brief glimpse of the sun and the strip before steeling myself for a day of windowless sessions in overly air-conditioned rooms.

  • Wednesday, July, 08, 2015
    Blog: Women’s Soccer and Return on Investment

    In the days after the U.S. Women’s soccer team’s World Cup win, we’ve heard a lot of back and forth over the issue of how much the players were paid. The women’s team received a record-setting $2 million for their win… record-setting for women, that is. Last year, the German men’s team earned $35 million for its World Cup win.

    “But it’s all about the revenue!” claim those who justify the discrepancy. The women’s tournament brought in a mere $17 million in sponsorship revenue compared to $529 million for last year’s men’s World Cup. Thus, because the men bring in more revenue, it only makes sense that they get paid more.


    When I was in college, I interned for an editor at a book publishing company. I recall, among the editor’s many tales of the publishing world, the story of how he signed one particular new author and set her up for success. Her work was good, he said, but she was relatively unknown and still new.

    For those more familiar with coaching contracts than book contracts, book contracts typically pay an advance, anything as low as a couple thousand dollars (J.K. Rowling was given a £1500 advance on the first Harry Potter book) to upwards of $100,000, if you’re an established name. If a new author doesn't go over well with the audience, the publisher hasn't lost much. If they're good, the publisher simply ups the advance on the next book.

    Rather than offering this new author something at the lower end of the spectrum as would befit the situation, the editor swung big. I don’t recall the exact dollar amount, but I think it was at least $20,000 (chump change for a pro athlete, but a big deal for a struggling writer).

    His reasoning? The more the publisher invested in an author, the harder it would work to ensure her success, giving her a preferred launch date, better marketing and visibility. Part of this was about recouping the investment — book advances are paid against royalties, which means a larger advance needs to be offset by greater book sales if the publisher wants to come out ahead.  

    What does this have to do with soccer?

    I’m not in the sports marketing business. I’m not even in the book marketing business. But I do know that a product’s success is as much about the effort that goes into marketing it as the quality of the product itself. 

    Don’t justify lower pay for female athletes by pointing to the lower revenue they generate — they’re not the ones negotiating sponsorship contracts or selling commercial slots. In the case of women’s soccer, FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke attributes the lower revenues to women’s soccer being a newer sport than men’s.

    “We played the [20th] men’s World Cup in 2014, when we are now playing the seventh women’s World Cup,” Valcke said in December press conference. “We have still another [13] World Cups before potentially women should receive the same amount as men. The men waited until 2014 to receive as much money as they received.”

    Or, how about this: Pay the players what they’re worth, and then put in the effort to back that investment up.

  • Friday, June, 19, 2015
    A Response to Critics of Soaring College Rec Spending

    “LSU Faces Dramatic Budget Cuts While It Builds An Expensive Lounging Pool” This was the headline of an article that appeared in The Huffington Post this past May criticizing Louisiana State University’s spending of $84.75 million on an overhaul of its recreation facilities despite a threatened $55.5 million funding cut from the state.

    Last week New Jersey governor Chris Christie admonished what he considers wasteful spending in the higher education system, denouncing “extras” such as lazy rivers and climbing walls.

    "Some colleges are drunk on cash and embarking on crazy spending binges,” he said.

    If you work in college recreation, the incidents made you cringe.

    The cost of higher education is going to get a lot of attention leading up to the 2016 election, and unfortunately, that’s going to come with a lot of misguided scrutiny of campus recreation programs.

    What both incidents overlook — as anyone working in college recreation will immediately recognize — is that a university’s education budget and recreation budget are two entirely different things. Campus recreation centers are not built at the expense of science labs or classrooms. For most universities, such projects are funded (and maintained) from students fees.

    "The funds for the project come directly from the student fee and can only be used for the project," LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard told The Huffington Post. "Similar to donations to the university or funds from the state for capital projects, these types of funds can't be shifted to fill in budget holes or be used in another way. They can only be used for what they were originally designated for."

    The impact of such facilities on the price of a college education is actually minimal, according to David Feldman, economics professor at College of William & Mary.

    “Lazy rivers are only a tiny piece of the costs,” he told Inside Higher Ed. “These lazy rivers are not the reason why student debt is soaring seemingly out of control. The big problem that higher education faces today, at the public side, is cuts in state spending.”

    Some argue that cuts in spending are actually driving the construction of bigger and better recreation amenities, as universities look draw in more out of state students. According to research from the University of Michigan, “wealthier students [are] much more willing to pay for consumption amenities.”

    Despite its negative headline, The Huffington Post article went on to admit as much, quoting a 2013 article in which former Miami University president James Garland explains, “We took advantage of low interest rates for municipal bonds and invested in rehabilitating our residence halls and eating facilities and putting in more recreation -- workout rooms and lounges, and the kinds of accouterments that really dressed up a campus and made it a much more comfortable and familiar place for upper-middle class students. So those students started applying to us in droves. Application numbers went up, we became more selective, and the SAT scores of the entering class became higher."

    So, in the face of a $55.5 million budget cut (avoided, thankfully) LSU would need to rely more heavily on the appeal of its non-academic offerings to bring in more students and more revenue. As Jane Wellman, a finance expert with College Futures Foundation, told Inside Higher Ed, the issue is not of how colleges spend money, but the priorities of schools.

    “The sense is that college costs are going up too rapidly, and institutions aren’t doing enough to control them,” she says. “The critique underneath that is the critique of the decision-making culture in higher education.”

    Rather than ask why LSU would spend $85 million on a recreation center, maybe politicians should be asking why the state of Louisiana was mulling a $55 million cut to education.

    We won’t get into the other complexities of campus recreation facilities, such as the positive economic impact of construction (According to NIRSA, $1.7B was spent on 157 recreation construction projects in 2012), the employment opportunities afforded to students, the educational programming opportunities, the importance of recreation to students' quality of life (and GPA), the role in building a schools’ reputation, or any number of issues.

    Unfortunately, neither will the politicians pinning the climbing costs of higher education on climbing walls.


  • Monday, June, 16, 2014
    AB's Architectural Showcase a Yearlong Affair

    The Architectural Showcase in June is the one issue of Athletic Business I look forward to most each year. It's also the issue I spend most of each year working on.

  • Friday, April, 04, 2014
    Blog: Wine at the Gym? I’ll Drink to That

    Cardio equipment? Check. Towel service? Check. Group exercise schedule? Check. Liquor license? Pending.

  • Thursday, February, 27, 2014
    Blog: Let Them Eat Cake, If They So Choose

    On Tuesday, the White House announced a series of new initiatives as part of the fourth anniversary of the “Let’s Move!” program. Many of them are a great step forward in the battle against childhood obesity and inactivity, including an expansion of the school breakfast program and a five-year partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of America will provide 5 million children with healthy snacks and physical activity opportunities after school. 

  • Monday, January, 13, 2014
    Blog: Women-Only Fitness Zones Perpetuate Stereotypes

    Here at AB, it’s the editors’ job to stay on top of what’s happening in the industries we serve. As such, last Friday I came across an article about a gym in Vancouver getting some flak for its decision to close its women-only section. 

  • Thursday, October, 10, 2013
    Blog: If You Can't Beat 'Em… Beat 'Em Up!

    I was sitting in a hotel lobby surrounded by other people when I opened up my morning news alerts and saw an article announcing the Kentucky High School Athletic Associations' decision to suspend post-game handshakes, so I had to keep my disgust to a minimum - a casual eye roll and understated sigh. Seriously? These athletes are displaying poor sportsmanship, and the solution to that is to do away with the concept? That's like dropping math from the curriculum because the students aren't getting it.

  • Friday, September, 20, 2013
    Blog: Defending "The Slowest Generation"

    Friday afternoon, when I should have been hard at work on AB's November issue, I instead found myself fuming over an article from Thursday's Wall Street Journal sent to me by our company owner. The article deemed younger athletes "The Slowest Generation," and accused my generation of being too apathetic about performance and competition.