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AB Conference: Doing More With Less

For the hundreds of attendees representing parks and recreation agencies, a running theme through the early stages of this year's Athletic Business Conference & Expo has been doing more with less.

"How do you have severe cuts but no reductions in services?" Judith Leblein Josephs, president of the consultancy JLJ Enterprises, told a crowded room while leading a seminar focusing on how three New Jersey communities were able to leverage user fees to fund the maintenance and construction of athletic fields. "Right now it's all about survival in the Garden State."

Josephs was one of numerous speakers urging parks and recreation administrators to take a harder, more business-like tack to finding funding strategies. While leading a seminar on coporate sponsorships and naming rights, Judy Haber, a senior partner with the Performance Sponsorship Group, reminded attendees that they are often now in direct competition with a range of for-profit entities when seeking new revenue streams.

"We're competing with the media," she said of naming rights and other corporate sponsorships in municipal recreation buildings. And just as radio and television stations are doing the research to have their sales teams give potential advertisers hard numbers on potential returns on investments, she said, "We have to do the same."

Citing the Town of Newmarket (Ont.) Magna Centre, a multipurpose indoor athletic facility that bolstered its overall naming rights deal with secondary sponsorships, right down to naming rights for specific sports surfaces, Haber said it's important to communicate such business strategies to wary taxpayers.

"They wanted to get as much money into that building as possible," Haber said of the municipality. "The message back to the taxpayers was, 'We don't need your money.' "

Doing more with less was also a key concept in a seminar on optimizing contracting services that was delivered by Chris Nunes, director of parks and recreation for The Woodlands (Texas) Township. "The challenge for us is that resources are limited," Nunes said. "I don't see a lot of want ads right now in the parks and rec trade."

Nunes acknoledged that corporate sponsorships or outside contracting are just two of many business strategies municipal parks and rec agenncies should explore as they try to find their way in this difficult economy. Said Nunes, "She was talking about sponsorships and I was talking about contracting, but it really is about what works in your community."

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