It really irritates me when I hear people compare municipal recreation departments to commercial businesses. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times regarding government operations, especially during the past two or three years of financial crisis: “If this was a business you’d never survive!”
I don’t think one can make an apples-to- apples comparison because they serve such vastly different purposes. Government recreation exists to serve the needs of taxpaying citizens with wholesome, affordable programs and activities; business exists to sell customers something they may or may not need or want at a price they may or may not be able to afford.
The key words here are “citizens” and “customers.”
Public administrators serve citizens who pay taxes with the expectation of service–I suppose you could say their taxes are their “membership cards.” Of all the other government services, I think this is especially true for parks and recreation departments.
We will never make a profit; it’s just not how we’re built.
While we may engage in some similar activities as business, such as marketing, we do it with a totally different intent. We can generate revenue to help offset costs, but can someone show me a recreation department that’s covering or exceeding its costs with revenue?
I don’t think it exists!
If I am wrong, I’d love to hear about it. I am always open to learning new things. Anybody out there know of a municipal or county recreation department that’s breaking even? I’d like to know how they do it.
Chime in, give your opinion, blow off a little steam, cut loose–foot loose … oops, showing my 1970s era again … anyway, what do you think? Can you make a fair comparison between public recreation and commercial business?
Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.