- Wednesday, May, 06, 2015
Moving Toward a Self-Sustainable Aquatics Funding Model
Of all the municipal recreation programs that suffered budget cuts during the Great Recession, perhaps no area has taken a bigger hit than aquatics. Public pools have never been a profitable line item in recreation budgets, bogged down by expensive initial construction costs and ongoing maintenance needs. Public pools drained their waters left and right to save on operational costs, and even with budgets rebounding, deferred maintenance has caused expenses to increase to the point where many programs have no choice but to close down indefinitely.
- Tuesday, May, 05, 2015
Kids' Triathlon Pool Fails Inspection, Used Anyway
Thousands of children participated in a triathlon this past weekend in Jacksonville, Fla., despite reports that the pool used had failed a health inspection earlier in the week. But that’s okay, event and city officials say.
As part of the two-day conversion of EverBank Field to host swimming, biking and running for the 7th Annual First Coast Kids Triathlon, a portable pool was constructed on the site. The event was a success, despite reports that swimmers had to be pulled from the pool by lifeguards due to the absence of pool ladders.
Because the pool was temporary, city officials say it was not considered a public pool under the state’s Department of Health, and thus was not subject to the same inspection criteria. In particular, the water used for such pools is pumped in and out and not recalculated.
“They actually don't have guidelines to monitor portable pools, so we actually work with them to set up a structure that allows us to circulate the water and make sure that it's safe,” event director Tom Gildersleeve told ActionNewsJax.com.
Furthermore, while the status of portable pools for city inspection purposes is still a little murky, the event still had to fulfill the guidelines set forth by USA Triathlon.
“Our events are all sanctioned by USA Triathlon, which is the governing board underneath the U.S. Olympic Committee so there's a safety protocol we follow,” Gildersleeve said.
Such pools have been used at other kids triathlon events. Lifeguards were also on hand both in and out of the pool to monitor participants’ safety.
- Friday, April, 24, 2015
Report Questions Whether UAB Football Was Unprofitable
The University of Alabama-Birmingham drew national attention — and a great deal of anger locally — last fall when it announced it was dropping its football program due to cost concerns. A new report released this week, however, questions that decision, asserting that the sport did make money for the university and would continue to increase in value.
- Wednesday, April, 22, 2015
Bill Banning 'Redskins' Moniker Advances in California
The state of California is poised to quell any further debate over whether “Redskins” is an inappropriate athletic team name once and for all. The California Racial Mascots Act, advanced to a state Assembly panel on Tuesday, would prohibit the use of the name by any public school beginning January 1, 2016.
“There is obviously a lack of respect when we allow teams to brand themselves with racial slurs,” said assemblyman Luis Alejo, the bill’s author. “The R-word was once used to describe Native American scalps sold for bounty, and in today's society it has become widely recognized as a racial slur.”
There are currently four public schools in the state that use the name Redskins for their athletic programs. The affected schools would not be required to cease all use of the name. Items such as yearbooks and newspapers would not longer be able to utilize the name, but to prevent financial hardship, schools would be allowed to keep uniforms and other materials bearing the name, provided they have selected a new name. Under the legislation, schools would be able to purchase up to 20 percent of uniforms with the old name until 2019.
“Tulare Union Redskins are part of a long and proud tradition dating back to 1890,” Sarah Koligian, superintendent of Tulare Join Union High School District, one of the four holdout schools, told SFGate. “Our school has worked closely with our local Indian tribes to include them in the discussion regarding how the Tulare Union Redskin depicts both pride and respect.”
The bill, approved last month by the Assembly Education Committee, was approved by the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media but must go through another committee before advancing to the Assembly floor.
“It’s a small thing we can do in California that is part of a national movement to phase out the use of racial slurs as mascots,” Alejo said.
- Tuesday, April, 21, 2015
Displaced Texas A&M Bats Seeking New Home
The recreation center natatorium at Texas A&M University has been closed since April 6 while crews work to remove hundreds of migratory bats that have taken up residence after being displaced by renovations at Kyle Field.
- Thursday, April, 16, 2015
Dodgers Looking to Give Tech Startups a Boost
The Los Angeles Dodgers have launched a program to integrate innovative technologies into the stadium and fan experience. The Dodgers Accelerator program, announced earlier this week, will provide 10 startup companies an opportunity to grow and build awareness for their products.
- Tuesday, April, 14, 2015
Landing Zones Around Climbing Walls Get Their Due
Climbing walls have become nearly as common as recreation centers on college campuses across the country, and the prevalence of public facilities dedicated to the sport has led to a generation of climbers for whom the walls and facilities built a decade ago just aren't cutting it any more. As facility operators look to revamp their existing walls to appeal to a more discerning consumer base — or to merely add the amenity — they're thinking more about the various aspects of a functional climbing destination.
- Monday, April, 13, 2015
Protecting Gym Lighting, Sprinklers and Scoreboards
In January, dozens of visitors complained of feeling sick after attending a basketball game at Roby High School gymnasium in Texas. Administrators went so far as to have the bleachers removed and tested for chemical residue before uncovering the culprit a couple of weeks later: a broken light bulb over the visitors' bleachers emitting UV radiation.
- Wednesday, April, 08, 2015
New Projects: Cleveland YMCA | Emerald Glen Rec Complex | GVSU Rec Center
After years of planning, construction of Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA (pictured) in Cleveland has begun. The new facility will occupy two floors of former retail space and offer 40,000 square feet of fitness space, including a three-lane lap pool, a sauna, a steam room, networked fitness equipment, a group cycling studio, three group exercise studios, and a social gathering space. Scheduled to open in January 2016, the $8.9 million project was designed by Moody-Nolan Inc. of Cleveland.
- Wednesday, April, 01, 2015
e-Sports Athletes Looking for Recognition
At first glance, one might scoff at any comparison between the athletic feats of an athlete on the field and a gamer online, but for e-Sports competitors, there may be more similarities than differences.
- Thursday, September, 01, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Facilities Worth Talking About
This article appeared in the October issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Tuesday, August, 30, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Preparing for the Year to Come
This article appeared in the September issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, July, 07, 2016
Letter from the Editor: Eat Your Veggies
This article appeared in the July/August issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Monday, June, 06, 2016
Passing the Torch in Facility Design
This article appeared in the June issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.
- Thursday, May, 05, 2016
At the moment...
I can't think of a recent issue of Athletic Business that captures the feel of our industry quite as comprehensively as this one. No, we don't have any momentous, industry-changing topics this month, but what we do have speaks to the current environment of athletic, fitness and recreation professionals.
- 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.