Tech Tips & Tricks

Today I have got a great interview for you!  I am talking to Craig Bouck from BRS Associates about future trends in recreation centers, including aquatics, operations, planning, and design. BRS is a planning and design firm that focuses primarily on community and recreation design.  They work around the country to provide bring a lot of these trends we are about to talk about to LIFE.  They like to focus primarily on recreation centers, because they say that this is the one architecture that at some point really touches everybody in the community.

Whether it be education, recreation, or socialization,  recreation centers are a facility that a community would invest in and get a direct benefit their entire lives.  Which is why it is so important to pay attention to the uniqueness of each community. There’s no one design or any one solution that’s going to work for every community.  Nothing is “cookie cutter” anymore.

Top Planning Trend in Parks & Recreation

While it’s hard to say what the most important trend is in recreation is, one of the trends we keep seeing over and over again is the movement away from separate senior centers to multi generation centers. While this isn’t an easy discussion to have, typically seniors aren’t used to seeing their space being shared.  They’re used to having ownership over their facility, so it can be hard to shift directions.

Now, seniors don’t like to even be called that because they are much more active than they used to be.  What they want to do in their retirement age is actually what all generations want to do.  They still want the community spaces, but now they want access to fitness classes, weights, cardio, functional training pieces, and group fitness classes.  We also know that seniors ike warm water aerobics because it is a very therapeutic exercise.

Another thing that is driving the trend “pure economics”, as Craig says.  Often seniors will use the facility in the morning into the afternoon, but will be underutilized at night.  Teen centers may be busy afterschool and into the evening.  But both of these facilities are not fully using their space to its advantage.  Having a multi gen center is a great way to maximize your space and program facilities based on ability.

Top Programming Trend in Recreation Centers

People are recognizing that to get maximum benefit from building these recreation facilities, it needs to serve many purposes for many people.  It’s like a swiss army knife – it can change to serve whatever need is there.  A great example of this is tennis courts.  Since pickleball has come along, the two sports play on the same court.  Multi functional on a simple level.  But using technology, rec centers can be serve in new ways.

There is a technology company called L. U. interactive that has refined a projection system can be cast on to one of these large double height walls in our gymnasium spaces.  The walls become interactive, and kids can throw balls against them. You can interact with them in just by touching them and the net effect is that you create an interactive video game.

Using the previously underutilized space between the safety zone of the basketball court, that’s often become the functional training space.  They’re building multiple stations around the gymnasium where they can attach different sort of functional training apparatus that might be attachment points for things like TRX.

On this point, many of BRS clients often think that the gym would be a fantastic place to hold body fitness classes or aerobics classes, or even yoga, but the challenge with these spaces has always been the acoustics.  Whatever is happening in the adjacent space or maybe in the running track has always interrupted the opportunity to have a successful class.

Well there’s another bit of technology that people are borrowing from the night club industry. They’re bringing it to recreation centers to solve this. It’s called “silent disco” and what that means is that basically in a night club setting you’ll be given a pair of headphones.  When you walk into a nightclub, there might be three or four different DJs playing different genres of music.  These headphones have a button on the side of them where you can select which DJ you want to listen to.  It’s a crazy experience because they’ll be dancing and enjoying it together but you can’t hear anything because everyone has headphones on.

Now fast forward to the fitness industry.  The same opportunity applies. The benefit is that the instructor can be heard clearly, and there can be multiple classes going on at the same time.  There can be multiple different kinds of music or instructions all given out, yet they’re not interrupted at all.  Silent disco technology is a very immersive experience for the people and can help recreation managers better utilize their space.

Top Aquatics Trend in Recreation Centers

Aquatics is one thing that people can do throughout their entire life. They can do it no matter their ability in many respects.  It has many therapeutic benefits, as well as socialization and recreation.  So the question is, how can we maximize participation in the aquatic environments? Specifically, the pools that are what we call flat water pools – which are rectangular pools.  They tend to be the ones that are the most underutilized.  Unless you have  an incredible swim team program with masters swimming, it may be underutilized.

Instead, calling them LIQUID GYMS, we can think of them as places for fitness even if we aren’t a competitive swimmer.  Some ideas are paddleboard yoga, underwater hockey, slacklining across the pool,  American Ninja Warrior, or log rolling.

Top Operations Trend in Recreation Centers

People are no longer really happy always participating in standard activities. Many adults aren’t necessarily comfortable or don’t feel welcome in participating in sports when adults. Instead people are turning to obstacle courses and individualized sports for a different experience.

Private groups out there, like orange theory, and others have recognized this.  By tracking the level of fitness exertion our bodies, they can track the different health metrics and make sure that everyone had an equal fitness experience.

Trends in Using Data Analytics to Make Decisions

The final trend here is around big data in recreation centers.  This is a new endeavor because traditional benchmarking is difficult in the past.  It is important that the information being compared is “apples to apples.”  This is something that is trending and becoming more and more really critical to the planning and operating. We can start to learn what we should expect for expenses on the rec center per square foot, so we can then see what we can expect for staffing costs.

We know that utilities and staffing are probably the most expensive portions of our operating considerations.  The totals center expenses per square foot and the staffing expenses person per square foot remain relatively consistent even if the size of the center increases. That’s important to know;  I think some people thought it would be an exponential differentiation, but we found that there’s a high correlation between the staffing expenses and the square foot of the building. The bigger audience that you have, you have the greater opportunity for revenues and cost recovery. There’s a threshold there and that’s worth understanding.

Should general fitness classes included in the price of admission or should they be offered as a separate cost? How does that affect overall cost recovery? We get that question all the time. What we found is that centers that offer the general fitness classes as part of the price of admission seem to have an equal or higher cost recovery then centers that don’t.

About Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture

Designing great places for communities has been the driving passion of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture since its early beginnings more than 43 years ago. With six principals and a total firm of 40, and offices in Denver and Dallas, our mission and commitment are the same today as they were then. By putting the client’s needs first and remaining true to architectural excellence, we have been at the forefront of innovative design. We have assisted more than 250 organizations across the country in the strategic planning, master planning, programming and design of community facilities.

Recreation centers, active adult centers, athletic complexes, libraries, city halls, cultural and performing arts centers, office buildings, visitor facilities and chapels round out the collection of projects we design. The thread that runs through them all is our commitment to an interactive process that includes our clients in the design and development of their project.

Decision makers must often navigate through a minefield of stakeholder groups and agency review, trying to balance the needs of all. We help facilitate “best-value” decisions unique to each organization. How do we do it? We wear many hats. We’re artists and analysts, mapmakers and MacGyvers, sages and band leaders, shepherds and scouts. We encourage potential clients to contact past and current clients to learn the value of a BRS-led project.

BRS design buildings and places that bring people together. We get our inspiration from the communities and clients with whom we work. We’d love to work with you.

Craig is the CEO of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. An extremely talented and creative designer, he has a quick intellect and discerning eye. He brings his expertise to all aspects of the practice, from project management to graphic design. Craig is a frequent speaker and author in the recreation, active aging and aquatic facility design industry.

Related Posts:

Hey Everyone,  Thank you so much for attending this session.  Here are the slides!

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Katy is originally from Charlotte, North Carolina and received her degree in Recreation & Park Management from Appalachian State University in 2011. Following graduation, Katy worked as a Recreation Specialist for Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation. In March 2015, she was hired by the Town of Indian Trail Parks & Recreation where her main responsibilities include marketing, programming and park projects. Katy is also the East Central Regional rep for the NRPA’s YPN State Associations Committee and is active in the NCRPA YPN with Student Outreach. Outside of work Katy enjoys spending time with her husband and keeping up with her two toddlers.

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Katy is Raising the Bar:

  • By showing up online and offline in so many different professional networks.  She gives VALUE.
  • By understanding her own habits and implementing strategies that would catch her own attention on social media.
  • By empathizing with her audience so that they can relate to their agency
  • By implementing systems to implement creative ideas from staff

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Strategies to get your audience to tag their friends and engage with your office
  • How creating a REACTION in people will help them stop and pay attention.
  • How one of Indian Trail’s event promotion on Facebook reached 1,000,000 people!
  • Why Awesome PRIZES will promote engagement and inspire people to share your post.
  • How to successfully and strategically plan out social media content without burning out

Additional Links:

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Ok!  So now that you’ve new creative strategies for marketing your programs and services, how do you feel?  Let me know in the comments with a GIF!

Instagram is where it’s at!  Seriously, I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see Parks and Recreation departments utilize this visually engaging platform to engage with their audience.  Every day, I see a new way of promoting and sharing content that’s never been done before!  We can all stand to learn from each other and share what’s working. I follow a ton of social media accounts by parks and rec depts on Instagram (if you want me to follow you, follow me :)) . Every time I see another unique post, I save it to “my collection” on Instagram.  Then, I embed it into here.   Check back often, I’ll try to update this post every week or so.

ALSO – This page will load slower than usual – there are many pictures and videos that are loading. Thanks for your patience!

Thanks!  Be sure to give ’em a like and a follow so you can see what they’re up to in the future.

Videos & Boomerangs!

First day of Summer Camps! Stay tuned for more!!!

A post shared by Fremont Recreation Services (@fremontrecreation) on

The OVC Softball Championship is in full swing! Come out for day two, tomorrow!

A post shared by Choccolocco Park (@choccoloccoparkoxford) on

What a wonderful day to fly a kite….

A post shared by Fremont Recreation Services (@fremontrecreation) on

Before & After Video of a New Playground

Re-Imagine Play is an innovative approach to #playground design that creates a multi-generational activity environment, giving all park users the opportunity to remain active through play. The Re-Imagine Play design embraces the natural topography of the park, and combines #placemaking and creative #play elements to create a dynamic public space in an area of the city that lacks green space and other amenities. With close proximity to public transit, trails and the #library, the completion of the park improvements build on recent investments in the #neighborhood. “These improvements here at Paco Sanchez Park will play a transformative role in how our kids and families in these neighborhoods connect with the outdoors and recreational activities here in Denver,” @mayorhancock said. “As one of the first #ElevateDenver bond projects to get underway, Phase II will provide even more of these experience to residents here on the westside. When it’s complete, you won’t find another park in #Denver or in the country that will compare to Paco Sanchez Park!” #letsgoplay

A post shared by Denver Parks and Recreation (@denverparksrec) on

Sharing the Summer Fun!


A post shared by TCJPR (@tetonparksandrec) on

Gotta love a post-work paddle board session ☀• PC ?: @trebizord • #boiseparks

A post shared by Boise Parks and Recreation (@boiseparksandrecreation) on

All parks and recreation professionals know that JULY is a crazy busy month.  Why we must schedule and plan an entire month of programming during the hottest month is certainly top of mind.  But ALAS, we shall push forward and make the best of it.  Here are some of the items that we used in my parks and recreation department that you could use either as souvenirs, used in a Facebook giveaway, or just to make your events that much more fun.  If you have stickers, you can brand these items with your logo too!   Please know that I receive a small commission if you buy any items using links on this page.  Any earnings help to cover the costs of maintaining this website – thanks for your support!

Don’t forget about the t-shirts!  These would be great for giveaways and/or staff!


1. Mini-Electric Fans

Obviously it only makes sense for the fans to fit nicely on your phone 🙂


2. Mini Sharks…

That Squirt Water!


3. Host the best water fight

with noodle style water guns

4. Folding Fans


5. Slap Bracelets

I’m pretty sure these never go out of style


6. Colorful Parachord Bracelet

Another classic


7. Neon Sunglasses


8. Throw a Neon Pool Party


9. Positive Message Wristband

Inspire your community!

10. Bouncy Balls

Buy ’em in bulk

11. Bubbles

On bubbles…

12. Slinkies

You can’t have a party without them

13. Punching Balloons


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Ah, technology.  I love it and I hate it.  I’m an advocate for it and yet most of the time I feel absolutely clueless when I’m using it.  I’ve taught myself how to code websites, create a podcast (kinda), use project management software, and use countless other programs. Yet have trouble making phone calls and using Google Maps.  Life is weird.

In this episode, I talk about the fact that failure is 1. 100% ok when you are trying new things; and 2. When you are working with new technology, you can bet that something is going to go wrong.  That’s okay.  How will you pick yourself back up and move forward?  If you’re the leader, and you see your employee take a risk, are you the kind of person who will encourage that person to keep trying?

Next week, I’ll be back with a new episode – another interview – so stay tuned!  Share this episode if you liked it!

Oh, and if you are interested…here is the link to the social media analytics presentation I did last week.

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Thanks for attending the webinar about social media analytics!  If this is your first time here, welcome!

Here is the handout: Analytics-Worksheet

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Resources for social media analytics:

Google Analytics

Free Guide to Google Analytics

The Cheat Sheet – Analytics and Insights for Instagram and Instagram Stories

The Cheat Sheet: YouTube Analytics And Insights

 Sprout Social Blog on Social Media Analytics

How To Use Social Media Analytics To Create The Best Content

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Renee Raney loves her job. She is the Parks Operations Supervisor of Events for Cheaha State Park. Each and everyday, people travel to the park to participate in the unique programs and activities the park offers.

Whether its “Hammocking 101, the “Women’s Wilderness Weekend,” or the countless other outdoor programs, Renee is behind the scenes making sure that the variety and quality of programs is the best it possibly can be.

She instills her own love of nature in all of the work she does, which is evident to the 36,000 Facebook followers she helps engage on social media. Sometimes she shares recipes for herbal tea, other times she tells a story of a park guest who had an interesting experience.

Most of the followers know her by name and it’s easy to know why. She’s in tune with the community, and has the skills and experience to create and market programs to suit their desires. She makes it look easy.

In reality, many programmers in the field of parks and recreation know that creating a new program can be downright challenging. Beyond developing the idea, the supplies, the staff needed, and the outcomes, you also have to prove that it’s a valuable program to pursue. Renee has developed her own evaluation tool that measures the success of the program (and regularly sees a 600% learning increase!).

To say I was impressed with this tool was an understatement. Then, when Renee mentioned that her program plans look like a movie script, it all made sense.

She’s the director. The staff are the actors. And all of the community is the audience. I can bet that they’d give her a standing ovation for the incredible work she’s doing at Cheaha State Park.

Talking to Renee was like talking to an old friend. I hope you feel the same way when you listen to the podcast.

“Be as perceptive of your audience as you can be. Be real.”

Renee is Raising the Bar…

  • by being data-driven.
  • by creatively using her skills to improve her organization.
  • by being in tune with her community.
  • by authentically sharing her story.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The path Renee took to get to the job she loves
  • How to try new program ideas when there isn’t a proven concept
  • The unique way that Renee is able to track success in programs
  • How Renee manages to engage 36,000+ followers on Facebook

Quick Tips on Social Media from Renee:

  • Each day, schedule hourly Facebook posts for the next day
  • You can post the same things multiple times but there’s a trick to it; remember that there’s a different audience at 9am than at 8pm
  • Bring a personal touch to your comments; put your name behind it if you write it.
  • When promoting an event, create a specific Facebook event page. Then, promote this event 10+ times, exchanging the photos of team
  • If someone shares your post, always comment and say “thank you”

“When you post about success and optimism and the beauty of natural resources and the incredible staff that are keeping it in operation… it’s a win-win.”


Cheaha State Park Facebook Page
Cheaha State Park Website
Alabama State Park

Cheaha State Park is promoting natural resource conservation, outdoor recreation, environmental education, wellness, community, and partnerships in a way that all of those interconnect for the improvement of the individual’s experience and the community’s perception of the park.

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Scheduling Software for Parks and Recreation Professionals

It’s January, so in the world of parks and recreation, we are already late to be thinking about 2018 summer operations.  Nevertheless, here I am to present some a few tips about scheduling software for parks and recreation professionals.

How do you currently schedule your employees?

Let me know in the comments!

For some of you, I’ll be honest – online employee scheduling might not be necessary. I’m a fan of the phrase, “don’t fix what isn’t broken,” even when it comes to innovation. If you have a small team, or only one location, you may not need a mobile app or an automatic scheduler. In these cases, a handwritten schedule would probably serve you just fine. But for those of you that are Mobile Employee Schedulingmanaging multiple locations or part-time employees with various schedules, you’ll want a schedule that you can pull up on your phone, one that has all your contact information in one place, and one that will help you find the best schedule for everyone.

To give you some background, I managed one of three recreation centers in our department. We had about 15 standard part-time employees, and another 10 cashiers.  We shared employees in between the three recreation centers.

Once a quarter, I would get together with my two other coordinators and make a schedule.  We would use the old schedules as a template, write with pencil over the old ones, and then type them into excel.

The whole process took us multiple meetings…multiple hours a day… and we ended up making many changes after we sent them out. It was a tedious and time consuming process. We often could not meet our proposed schedule deadline and ended up letting down our staff.

Our employees deserved better. They needed to know their schedule so that they could plan out their lives. Having a good work life balance is essential, and our job as managers is to make that happen.

As staff voiced their frustrations, and my fellow coworkers spent more and more time on our excel schedules, we knew we needed to do something.

We made the switch to have ALL of our employee contact information in ONE place that we could access anywhere, even on the go. We had ALL of the schedules for ALL of the centers in ONE app on our phone. We could see exactly who should working at which center and who should be on later today. We could find out who swapped shifts and approve them if we wanted. Best of all, our staff could see it all too.

How To Prepare Your Team for a Switch:

Quick tips before getting committing:

  • In order to make the trial period successful, I recommend putting all of your employee information into an excel spreadsheet with each row being first name, last name, address, email, etc.  This will allow you to import your contacts into the software easily.
  • Get your whole team on board.  Allow them to be a part of the decision making process.  Tell your employees to expect a change and WHY you are making the change.
  • Once you’ve done your research, and have decided on the software you’ll be using, have a specific training that walks your employees through the process of the new tool.  Talk about expectations, policies, and concerns they may have.


An Overview of WhenToWork:

Link to WhenToWork – My purpose in sharing this affiliate link is so that more parks and recreation professionals have tools to take their organization and team to the next level.  I receive a small amount if you decide to commit to WhenToWork.  Any amount that I make on this site goes back into the site for hosting fees so that I can continue working on this site.

WhenToWork offers a complex set of tools that will help you better manage recreation operations.  They have an excellent set of video tutorials to get you and your employees started on the program, but be prepared to invest time in understanding the interface.   Their FAQ should help you through most of your questions (note that they do not have a contact phone number, like WheniWork to talk to a real person).

If you have all of your employees in an excel spreadsheet, then importing them is easy.  Their mobile app is awesome.  The pricing is based on how many employees you are managing.

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Subscription Pricing for WhenToWork
Subscription Pricing for WhenToWork


This type of pricing works well for most organizations.  If you have multiple departments that are considering the switch (like aquatics and front desk) I would recommend actually getting separate accounts.  One problem that we ran into was that you must start a schedule on the same date.  Let’s say that your aquatics department starts a new schedule every month, but your front desk staff starts every quarter, you’ll run into some issues.  Keep that in mind when you start to count up your employees.  Keep them separate if you want to keep it simple.

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Overview of WhentoWork
Overview of WhentoWork


When you first login, this is the view you will have as a manager.  You can customize the “What’s New” section in the top right section, but that’s about it.  The design/user interface isn’t very modern, but it works!  There are many ways for how to view your schedules, so you’ll have to find what works best for you.  The employees section was my favorite – to have everyone’s information in one place.  The Urgent Text Alert also helped for those last-minute situations where we needed someone quickly but didn’t want to text everyone individually.

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Reporting Capabilities of WhenToWork
Reporting Capabilities of WhentoWork


Part of your job as a recreation professional is justifying your operational costs.  The ability to estimate payroll, analyze shifts for conflicts, see a summary of time-off, etc is invaluable.  This kind of information would take hours to calculate from an excel sheet.  When the ACA rules came into play, we found out just how important it was to have detailed records of the hours our employees worked.

I love the features of reporting through WhentoWork.  They also have a growing list of compatible software that may help you, such as payroll software (Kronos, PayCom, Tylers Munis, Paychoice, etc) and other tools.




There are other programs that I found for employee scheduling.  Have you tried any of these out?  Would you like to see a review of these programs?  Let me know in the comments!





Google Calendar (video info here)





Finally, a realistic resolution.

In January, we’ll talk about how Parks and Recreation Professionals can be more efficient. Each week, I’ll deliver a blog post that will help you save time when operating parks and recreation facilities.

After all, this entire website is dedicated to the idea that parks and recreation should raise the bar!

What does it mean to raise the bar?

Raising the bar in our field looks like being more efficient, more effective, more streamlined.  It means acting less like a government organization and more like a small business. It means taking more strategic risks, treating people like people, and utilizing the tools at hand to make wise decisions.

One hurdle that I’ve seen is the lack of relevant information for parks and recreation professionals.  While there is endless knowledge on the internet for all sort of corporations, entrepreneurs, and startups, there needs to be a deeper conversation around the specific needs of parks and rec professionals.

You are the ones in your community that are making a true difference.  Through your programs, services, volunteerism, and sports, you mold the community to a better version of itself.  You teach children lessons, you keep adults in shape, you bring seniors together.  Without you, where would they be?

In January, I’ll be talking about one of my favorite topics ever: Efficiency!

My hope is that you walk away with information that helps you be more efficient and effective in your work.  We can use technology to create systems that make our lives easier.  We can stop recreating the wheel once we start embracing the tools that already exist.

Efficiency Series Schedule

Week 1: What Scheduling Software Works Best For Parks and Recreation Employees?

Week 2:  Online Fitness Classes: Low-Cost Options for Making the Switch from PDF Schedules

Week 3: Creating an Internal Maintenance Trello Board

Week 4: Three Free Ways to Get Customer Feedback