The Thrill of Victory

Technology is billed as a panacea to almost every potential management and programming quagmire. While it lives up to its promise and beyond, computer power is only as good as the people behind it.

The professionals we spoke to from Henderson, Nev., and New Britain, Conn., have embraced technology in a big way, while making sure the organization and the people who take advantage of their programming are in step with the changes it brings.

“Every administrative leader is looking for information, accountability and the reasons why you make the decisions you make,” says Bill DeMaio, acting parks and recreation director for New Britain, Conn.

“I’ve found that the computer can sift through information on a timely basis and be able to spit it out for you, which really justifies the reasons you make management decisions. We have so much more information at our beck and call, whereas years ago you couldn’t retrieve that information. You couldn’t find the trends and compare them year after year in chart form to be able to make good decisions for the next year and recommend to your mayor and town council the decisions you think are applicable.”

Info Superhighway

New Britain is a city of about 76,000 in the center of Connecticut. The parks and recreation department hosts youth, adult and co-ed leagues, in addition to a full slate of programming that reaches its peak in the summer.

New Britain is also home to a double-A minor league team affiliated with the Minnesota Twins, a pro soccer team (the Connecticut Wolves) and is working on an agreement with the Connecticut Crush, a pro women’s football team.

Three stadiums are located in the city’s Willowbrook Park, and DeMaio’s department handles a football/soccer/track complex as well. All facilities are managed through landlord-tenant relationships, so the parks and recreation department is charged with keeping everything up to snuff for both its professional tenants and New Britain’s citizens.

“As you get bigger you have a lot of forks and spoons in the pot. The key is for everyone to have access to information in live time so they can go to their computer screen and see what’s going on,” says DeMaio.

“So if I’m negotiating a pro soccer match and someone else in the office is negotiating a high-school track meet in June he or she should be able to look on-screen and see where we’re at… Is it on a tentative hold? Is the football field available? What is the setup time needed, and what are the notes inside?

“That’s a critical aspect of organization. The park people have to be able to see what’s going on in that facility so they can make plans to paint it, cut it, line it, irrigate it — all those things come into play. We’re in the entertainment business, so how can we provide the services around the events so that the field still looks beautiful, your locker rooms and bathrooms are clean and concessions are ready?”

All of this is managed through a wide-area network (WAN) and local-area network (LAN) on T1 lines that house the department’s management software, RecTrac.

Most locations are networked for that real-time access through the T1 lines. Though the department has its own Web site (members.aol.com/recnpark), it is not using the Internet for either internal or external functions, such as networking or on-line registration. The Web site is merely a clearinghouse for information to the public.

Though real-time access is a reality for New Britain’s parks and recreation department, hard copy reports created by the software are circulated to the city’s superintendent of parks, three general foremen and five foremen.

“What’s nice about the software is that I can print reports for the general foremen by date, so they’re driving around and checking by date what’s supposed to happen in the city,” says DeMaio.

“Foremen located at particular parks get a report just for their facilities at their park. The ability to have different types of reporting makes it easier for the needs of that particular employee.”

Bottom line, says DeMaio, is the bottom line. Knowing it is the first step toward effectively managing not only the programming, but the entire system.

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