- Wednesday, March, 11, 2015
Community Supports Footing Tax Bill for Church Ballpark
While nonprofit and religious organizations have been under the microscope in recent years when it comes to tax-exempt status of their fitness and recreation facilities, voters in Boscawen, N.H. last night approved a plan that would donated $6,000 to a local church to cover property taxes and maintenance on its baseball field.
The field, owned by Boscawen Congregational Church, was built in 1915 and has been offered free for use by local groups over the last century, including Merrimack Valley Youth Baseball and Softball. But in 2014, the city’s tax assessor determined that because the lot was not being used for religious purposes, it was not tax exempt, and the church was billed $1,600.
In addition to covering the property tax bill, the city’s donation will also help defray maintenance and upkeep costs for the church ballpark. Church and community volunteers had been assisting with the efforts and will continue to do so.
“It does need some work,” Merrimack Valley Little League president Eric Crane told the Concord Monitor. “Our plan has always been to revitalize and rebuild the church park.”
Not all voters agreed that the donation was a grand slam, however. “My concern isn’t about the kids playing baseball. If you give money to one nonprofit, how do you deny others that come forward?” one resident asked.
- Wednesday, March, 11, 2015
Evaluating Campus Recreation Management Software
A good software management system is essential to the success of any business, facilitating everything from access control and asset management to membership sales and scheduling. Choosing a management software vendor is not a task many take lightly; between implementation, training and ensuring compatibility, making the switch to a new system is an arduous undertaking, and the final decision will be one the facility operator will likely have to live with for a number of years.
- Tuesday, March, 10, 2015
Poor Design Blamed for Rec Center's Financial Woes
Seven Hills Recreation Center in Ohio lost $45,000 last year, bringing its total financial loss up to $553,000 since it opened in 2002 — not including the initial construction costs. According to Mayor Richard Dell'Aquila, poor initial design has caused the city-owned recreation center to become a "generational financial problem."
“The recreation center has suffered from poor construction, bad design, and ineffective management," Dell'Aquila told Cleveland.com. "Combined with the worst financial recession since the 1930s, the recreation center has been largely responsible for much of the financial woes the city has suffered in the past decade.”
Among the major expenses, the pool roof had to be replaced shortly after the center opened due to deterioration caused by pool chemicals. The $2 million cost was partially covered by the original subcontractor. The natatorium’s HVAC system was also replaced last year at a cost of $500,000. Dell’Aquilla says that the previous system never worked properly and led to structural issues throughout the rest of the recreation center.
In 2011, the city hired a consultant to inspect the recreation center and identify further construction deficiencies. In addition to poor facility ventilation, the inspection found that the no vapor barrier had been installed during initial construction, putting the facility at increased risk of deterioration due to moisture buildup.
Additionally, Dell’Aquilla criticized the original pool design, which is not large enough to host swim competitions. “There are many swim teams in our area that could have been attracted to the center with a little more thought.”
- Tuesday, March, 03, 2015
Tips to Keep Saunas and Steam Rooms Appealing
It’s a story all too familiar to many fitness facility operators: a new facility or renovation opens, boasting a new sauna or steam room that will be the facility’s crowning jewel and attract myriad new members. Months later, though, it’s fallen into disuse (or worse yet, a failure of the steam room enclosure renders it useless) and sits as an empty waste of space.
- Tuesday, February, 17, 2015
Hockey League’s No-Touch Policy Touches Off Debate
A Toronto girls’ hockey league has drawn some attention this month, not because of its performance on the ice, but its policies related to player-coach interactions.
Following a complaint regarding a volunteer coach who congratulated a player by slapping her on the butt and squeezing her shoulders, the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Association’s executive vice-president sent out an email to coaches with the following message: “Putting hands on shoulders, slapping butts, tapping them on the helmet, NOTHING, this can make some of the girls uncomfortable and you won’t know which ones, so no contact, period.”
Following criticism from parents and a flurry of online commentary, the league issued a statement clarifying the league’s policy, stating that the email was only intended to remind coaches of the league’s existing policy, not replace it:
“The issue about physical contact is a guideline only. Please know that we naturally understand that contact is part of the game. We also acknowledge that it is normal for volunteers to touch players in certain circumstances – e.g. helping with skates and helmets; assisting a young player on and off the bench; helping an injured player off the ice. The suggestion in the news media is that we have implemented a no contact policy. Please be assured that this is not the case.”
League president Jennifer Smith went on to explain, "At no time did the TLGHA invoke a new policy. The section of the email about physical contact with players did not draw a clear enough distinction between hard and fast rules and guidelines. These are guidelines only."
Still, the zero-tolerance position of the email touched off what many players and coaches feel is an important discussion about the roll of physical contact between players and coaches in sports. Reactions were mixed, with some feeling a no-contact policy went to far and others that it only made sense to discourage unnecessary contact between players and coaches.
“Obviously we’ve been taking steps ever since we’ve known that some bad things have happened to kids back in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Twenty-year hockey coach David Trombley told CTV Toronto. “Definitely we’re out here to protect the kids.”
“I think it’s a real shame in a public situation on the bench that they’re not allowed to give a congratulatory tap,” said one parent. “I absolutely understand behind closed doors and in the locker room, but maybe on the bench and on the ice, it’s a different situation.”
For Dave Cmar, president of Sun Parlour Female Hockey Association in Ontario, it’s a logistics issue.
“We wouldn’t have the resources to be at every arena, at every game,” he told The Windsor Star. “The difficulty would be in uniformly applying that.”
Sports psychologist Kate Hays defended coach-player contact as an important aspect of player development, telling CBCNews, “It says, 'I'm paying attention to you, you've done a good job, I know you are really engaged, you are important to me, you are important to the team.'"
Perhaps more important, Hays says that it’s part of teaching children the difference between appropriate and inappropriate contact. "The idea of learning about non-sexualized, non-aggressive touch is something that indicates a positive connection among human beings.”Should touching a player's shoulder be considered inappropriate contact for a coach?
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- Wednesday, February, 11, 2015
Little League Champs Stripped of National Title
Nearly two months after allegations that the Jackie Robinson West team violated residency rules, the governing board of Little League Baseball has stripped the team of its 2014 U.S. championship title. The team drew significant attention during this past year’s Little League season as the first team comprised of all African-American participants to win the national title.
In December, a rival team accused the Chicago-based team of using players outside its geographic area in December, allegations that were initially dismissed. But an investigation by the Little League organization revealed that the team used a map with falsified boundaries to recruit players from neighboring districts. As a result of the investigation, the team will vacate its wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament, including its regional and national titles, the latter of which will be awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.
“For more than 75 years, Little League has been an organization where fair play is valued over the importance of wins and losses,” Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement. “This is a heartbreaking decision. What these players accomplished on the field and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.”
Local officials acknowledged in January that they knew of the team’s violations but had not reported them to the governing body, sparking the league to reopen its investigation. The team’s manager has since been suspended, and the league’s administrator for the district has been removed from his position.
“Little League takes these matters very seriously and has spent countless hours gathering information about the many issues facing Jackie Robinson West Little League and Illinois District 4,” Keener said. “During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator, Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been.”
- Tuesday, February, 03, 2015
New Projects: Kansas State's Vanier Football Complex | Westlake Athletic & Community Center
- Tuesday, February, 03, 2015
Cardio Equipment Leasing Strategies for Fitness Centers
Cardio equipment is the heart of any fitness center. It's the most popular type of equipment, unintimidating and easy to use for fitness newbies, but also a powerful workout tool for enthusiasts. Befittingly, manufacturers are constantly seeking out new ways to improve their products, from design tweaks to make equipment more user-friendly to consoles featuring integrated technology to keep up with users' expectations. Today's cardio equipment is compatible with a range of wearable technology, offers a variety of virtual-reality programming, can record a long list of workout data, and can even alert operators to specific maintenance needs.
- Tuesday, January, 20, 2015
What Really Caused the Illnesses at Roby Gym?
Two weeks after visiting basketball players and fans to Roby High School gymnasium in Texas reported sore throats, headaches and other symptoms, investigators have found the cause: a broken light.
Administrators initially suspected a chemical irritant used on the bleachers to be the cause of visitors' symptoms, removing the bleachers last week and having them tested. Those tests came back negative for any sign of chemical over-concentration, leaving administrators to explore other possible causes.
During the investigation, someone noticed that there was still an odor in the gym, despite the absence of the bleachers. The cause turned out to be a broken metal halide light above the visitors side bleachers, which was emitting UV rays. The UV ray exposure led to visitors' illnesses.
Roby superintendent Heath Dixon says that the school plans to replace all of the gym lighting with LED. Meanwhile, all light bulbs in the gym have been replaced with bulbs outfitted with an extra casing, which won't emit rays if broken.
- Friday, January, 16, 2015
Former NCAA Chair Admits to Not Reading Freeh Report
According to new court documents released this week, former NCAA executive committee chair and Oregon State president Ed Ray did not read the Freeh report before sanctioning Penn State’s football program. The report was the primary piece of evidence used by the NCAA to hand down sanctions.
The revelation comes from court documents filed as part of the Paterno lawsuit, Ray admitted to only reading the executive summary and press accounts. From the documents:
Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers: You reviewed the Freeh Report at or about the time it came out, I take it.
Ray: Actually, it was -- I think I did not go through the detailed report until after the agreement was reached. Remember, the report came out on the 12th. I went to Hawaii on, I don't know, the 14th. So, I may have looked at the executive summary when it came out, and certainly read press accounts, but I don't believe I read or was able to download and get a copy of the full report until after I got back, which would have been around the time of the press conference [announcing the Consent Decree], or sometime shortly thereafter.
Sollers: Did not have the Freeh Report sent out to you in Hawaii?
Ray: No. No.
Sollers: Do you recall when you got back--
Ray: So let me be clear about that. When I went to Hawaii, I didn't even know that we were going to be having any conversations about the Freeh Report. So I had no sense that I needed to prep for anything.
We went on either the 14th or the 15th, at this point I can't remember. And then we had this conference call on the 17th. So no, I didn't have the Freeh Report.
And then I came back on, I think the 19th or 20th, traveling from there, probably on the 20th, and then the 21st we had this phone call [approving the Consent Decree]. So I didn't have a lot of time to prep for anything.
"These are extraordinary circumstances," Ray said at a news conference announcing the sanctions. "The executive committee has the authority to act on behalf of the entire association in extraordinary circumstances. And we have chosen to exercise that authority.
The NCAA has been under increasing criticism as of late for its handling of the Sandusky scandal, especially with new information coming to light as part of the lawsuit filed against the NCAA by the Paterno family.
The scrutiny has also prompted a meeting of the Penn State board of trustees to discuss joining a lawsuit filed by state senators set for trial next month. The board is meeting today (January 16) to discuss and vote on a resolution to join the suit, which alleges that the NCAA had no authority to hand down its punishments.
- Thursday, March, 31, 2016
Our Common Ground
This article appeared in the April issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- 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  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.