City's parks programs bring in revenue

More people are enrolling in the city's parks and recreation programs, bringing in a steady flow of cash at a time when increased revenue is rare, parks officials said Thursday.

Spring classes — ranging from exercise to digital photography — have brought in almost 800 new customers and $52,000 more than the programs generated during the same 10-week period in 2010, said Doug Kupper, director of the parks and recreation department.

Kupper credited improved classes and the redesigned spring program magazines that were distributed with the Feb. 27 edition of The Eagle for drawing more people to the recreation classes. Meanwhile, the city has been using Facebook to inform the mushrooming demographic of social media users.

"We've had quality programs," Kupper said. "But people didn't know about them."

Among new programs the city is promoting are youth camping classes aided by Gander Mountain; home decoration classes with input from Accent Interiors; financial education classes with Waddell & Reed Inc.; home improvement lessons with Home Depot; and home sales preparation tips with J.P. Weigand & Sons Inc.

Kupper said Zumba dance fitness classes have been one of the biggest draws.

A new magazine of classes will be distributed with The Eagle this Sunday.

New programs stem from a series of public meetings earlier this year that drew input from residents as the city cut $1 million from the recreation budget.

"The restructuring doesn't mean we threw out all of the good things we used to do with the bathwater," Kupper said. "We're still providing some of those quality programs going forward."

Among them is the Summer of Discovery, which provides all-day child care with swimming and field trips for $90 a week.

Kupper said the city will open and maintain 11 public swimming pools starting May 30 and continue to offer safe swimming classes.

The increased revenue will flow back to the city's general fund, but Kupper said he hopes the success of the programs will provide evidence that investing in community recreation classes benefits everyone.

Meanwhile, the city is beginning budget discussions that will culminate in August. Kupper said he hopes to avoid significant cutbacks this year.

"We've restructured, we've got a dynamite organization in the recreation division with very enthusiastic people," he said. "They've done a yeoman's job in the first quarter of this year, and we have nothing but high expectations through the summer and into the fall."