Investment and Collaboration will be Key to Building Stronger, Healthier Communities
Clearwater, FL (PRUnderground) July 9th, 2018
America’s local park and recreation agencies generated $154 billion in economic activity in 2015, including nearly $81 billion in value added and more than 1.1 million jobs that’ve boosted labor income by $55 billion.
Local parks and recreation have always played an important role as engines of economic activity in their communities, but there is growing evidence that they have
an even bigger role to play.
According to research shared through the Aspen Institute Project Play Initiative, America has adopted a sports model that is leaving kids behind. Exacerbated by the defunding of school sports and a focus on competitive travel sports, fewer and fewer kids have access to meaningful and affordable sports and fitness experiences at an early age, a critical aspect of becoming physically active.
The Aspen Institute recognizes this as an alarming trend that has far-reaching implications for society at large. Studies reviewed by the American College of Sports Medicine highlight the positive compounding, intergenerational effects of active kids and families, which correlate with exponential hidden medical and social costs for communities that are inactive and/or have limited access to sport. Active kids are 1/10th as less likely to be obese, have up to 40% higher test scores, less smoking, pregnancy, and risky behavior, and they have higher lifetime incomes. Based on this and other research Dev Pathik, CEO and founder of the Sports Facilities Advisory, calls sports participation a “prescription for a better society.”
In order to capitalize on the multi-billion-dollar youth sports tourism industry, public and private developers are racing to build the next generation of elite sports complexes. “This new facility development boom has been overwhelmingly positive” says Pathik. “It has led to billions in construction and economic development and it has provided the many benefits of sports participation to tens of millions of kids. However, the travel sports and elite sports markets are not built to address lower income community needs.”
Based on the trajectory and growth in competitive youth sports, the disparity between those who have access to sports and those who do not is expected to grow. As a result, America’s local park and recreation agencies are uniquely positioned to service and influence outcomes for youth and their families who are currently being crowded out of the existing sports participation model.
“Creating access to facilities where sport can be played will require investments and innovation by parks and recreation leadership,” continues Pathik. “There are cities and Parks Directors who are doing this well, but most are underfunded because government officials do not yet fully understand the health, social, and economic issues that can be addressed through more active lifestyles and participation in organized sport.”
Pathik theorizes that for Parks Directors to play a vital role in the effort to get more kids active, they will need to develop stronger economic impact data. In the future he believes that parks and sports assets will be viewed as critical economic development resources.
Ultimately, if parks and recreation is to achieve its full potential it will require investments in programming that include infrastructure and quality coaching, because according to research by The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SIFA) quality coaches directly impact sports participation rates. That is because children continue to play for well-trained coaches, while poorly trained coaches unwittingly turn them off to sport. By integrating sports and fitness experiences that are “fun” (a key driver of early adoption for young athletes), along with sports “sampling”, and other introductory programs that encourage physical activity, local park and recreation agencies have an opportunity to influence health and social outcomes in a way that the elite and travel-sports model cannot.
According to Dev Pathik, “We have witnessed increasing collaboration between the public sector and private developers and operators within the competitive youth travel sports space. We now see signs that parks and recreation departments are increasingly open to public-private-partnerships. There is a real opportunity for parks and recreation to more actively engage the private sector in support of their goals. With proper financial and economic data, parks and recreation directors can be a leading voice in the promotion and development of sport — collaborating with private organizations when it comes to managing and building sustainable assets that are supported by affordable, profitable programming that is right-sized to the marketplace.”
Warinanco Park in Union County, New Jersey is just one of example of a collaborative effort between a professional management company and a public park. The new Warinanco Park Sports Center is managed by a private group that specializes in sports facility management.
According to Jason Clement, CEO of Sports Facilities Management (SFM), “From our perspective, America’s local park and recreation agencies are a natural platform for re-energizing and re-imagining youth sports in America and are destined to play an increasingly important role in providing access to sport, transforming communities, and building a healthier, stronger America.”
About The Sports Facilities Advisory | The Sports Facilities Management
Sports Facilities Advisory, LLC (SFA) and Sports Facilities Management, LLC (SFM) are both headquartered in Clearwater, FL. Founded in 2003, SFA has served more than 1,500 communities, produced more than $8 billion in institutional-grade financial forecasts, and provided funding strategies and solutions for more than 120 youth and amateur sports and recreation complexes worldwide. SFM provides industry-leading, results-driven management solutions for sports, fitness, recreation, and event venues nationwide. Since 2014, SFM-managed venues have hosted more than 50 million visitors and generated millions of dollars in economic impact. For more information, visit: www.sportadvisory.com.Press Contact
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