Rec programs on the rise

After massive cuts and sweeping changes, everything is swimming along with the city’s recreation department.

  • Oct. 6, 2011 7:00 a.m.

After massive cuts and sweeping changes, everything is swimming along with the city’s recreation department.

That’s the report Chuck Loewen, Penticton’s general manager of recreation, told council Monday night, in offering an update on department progress.

Since the opening of the Penticton Community Centre, Loewen said recreation staff have seen a 75 per cent increase in public swim admissions. That has jumped the revenue brought in 39 per cent over budget for the year.

He said specific programs have been expanded to meet the demand in the community, including the aquatic program for masters swimmers as well as additional sets of basic lessons for children.

Recreation programs have also seen a 10 per cent increase, he said, mirrored by a seven per cent increase in rental facilities — leaving the municipal department with 10 per cent more revenue than originally planned.

Costs have also been cut, he said. Salaries of recreation and aquatic staff were adjusted, as were schedules to ensure maximum efficiency of coverage. Loewen said that resulted in a four per cent decrease in costs over 2010 figures.

“The overall operations have resulted in an improvement in the area of 12 to 15 per cent this year, and the recreation department is proud of its contribution to the city’s financial position,” he said.

Loewen also said there was plenty of plans on the horizon to boost revenue and expand offerings. Popular fitness programs like zumba may have classes increased to handle additional capacity.

He said the department is also looking at offering more programs gradually through skill level expansion as users like children get older.

The department is reviewing the various spaces in the community that have leasing potential, as well as exploring expanded vending machine offerings to augment sales. An advertising review is currently underway for existing recreational sites and potential sites to come.

He also pointed to a loyalty membership program that’s being investigated and could see a potential launch in 2012, as one way of targeting marketing for new or expanded offerings to users in the club who can benefit from exclusive deals.

Coun. Andrew Jakubeit said he was pleased with the entrepreneurial approach of the department, a shift away from the way “recreation services are usually subsidized by the city.”

“I know you’ve had your nose to the grindstone since you’ve been here,” Mayor Dan Ashton said in thanking Loewen for the status update.

The verbal report was received unanimously by council.