Building or renovating a recreation center can be a daunting task, especially for the rec center director who is still relatively new to the profession.
As CEO and principal of architecture firm Barker Rinker Seacat (BRS), and guest speaker at the AB Show this November, Craig Bouck knows rec center trends as well as anyone, spearheading multimillion-dollar projects throughout Colorado and around the country. Bouck says rec center directors are entering the job with less experience in the past few years as more longtime directors are retiring. That has led to different and broader concerns from directors, who are considering building or renovation projects. Instead of questions about their fitness room or aquatics area, rec center directors want to know how they should drum up support and resources from community leaders and politicians.
Bouck and his colleague Mick Massey, the Texas regional director at BRS, will be offering a crash course at the AB Show Nov. 17-19 in Orlando in building or renovating a rec center, which will be especially relevant to up-and-coming directors facing their first project.
Here are the top five steps to help operators get started, according to Bouck:
1. Make a Plan
"To move forward without a plan is the biggest mistake that we still see out there. The first thing a city manager might say is, 'Give me a number.' The cost is the last thing that you can give because you actually need to go through a process to determine cost."
2. Negotiate with Politicians
"You have to develop an understanding of how politics work. You have to understand how decisions are made in your community. All politicians would agree that some sort of recreation and wellness should be part of a quality-of-life equation, but things like police, fire, sewer and roads sometimes get the top priority, and it's difficult to be heard when there are limited funds."
3. Cultivate Resources and Network with Experts
"We can't do this alone, and that's not the spirit of the parks and rec community. But how do you go about building a team? When do those players come in and out of the team? Find mentors, people who are just like you who are either going through the process, or maybe are one step ahead of you, and learn from them. Associate with people outside of your area of expertise. Think beyond what your current job is to broaden your awareness of all the things that go into a successful business."
4. Prepare for Pitfalls
"There are some nuts and bolts that you have to understand — time, budget and the realities of building a facility. Things can go wrong. Don't go in thinking that this is going to be a recipe where if you just follow every step, you're going to be successful. You're going to be on the track to success, but there are pitfalls."
5. Be Accountable for Your Project
"As public servants, rec center directors are being placed in this role of being an entrepreneur. You've got to be accountable— to your brand, your building, your clientele and your mission. That only comes through strong leadership and an awareness that that's part of your responsibility. Those aren't things they teach you in school. You've got to learn them somewhere."
Transform your program, facility and career at the AB Show, Nov. 17-19. This premier event is the No. 1 place for you to learn how to build a great team, get top-notch education and tips from industry thought-leaders, and find the products and services you need to effectively manage and equip your program or facility.
Get the rest of Craig's tips about building or renovating a rec center during his 2016 AB Show session: "Everything You Didn't Learn in School about Community Recreation Centers."