Recreation Commitment Rewards Community

Recreation Director Kristine Ondrias and her team expect a 100 percent return on the city's software investment in the first year. Pictured at Portland Skate Park, are Audrey Saenz and Kristine Ondrias (standing, left to right), and Rachelle Parry, Linda Medellin and Joyce Richardson (sitting, from left to right).

Known as the "Gem City of the Gulf," the City of Portland, TX, has not only automated its entire recreation administration but is debuting Internet activity registration for the community.


It's obvious that recreation is a top priority for the City of Portland, TX. If you look beyond the city's ideal location on the gulf coast and its state-of-the-art recreation facilities, you will find one of the most advanced software systems behind Portland's commitment to recreation.

What you will not find are wasted dollars on technology or fat recreation budgets. The recreation department is not only automating every facet of its administration, but the staff expects a 100 percent return on its software investment in its first year.

Just ask Kristine Ondrias, Portland's Recreation Director. Ondrias and her staff did their homework. They leveraged vendor research, return on investment data, and creative strategy to gain city funds for the new technology.

One hurdle was showing Portland's city council that the software would prove to be an investment rather than another cost.

Ondrias explains, "We focused on increasing program value and productivity. We showed council members how much more we could do, including financials, running an efficient membership program, automating facility reservations, and offering Internet registration. We changed the focus of the department fairly dramatically, looking at real quality of life issues. We also looked at how the technology would help us continue to attract people to Portland through enhanced recreation opportunities."

Creative funding pays off
Ondrias joined the Portland team in December and at the time, budgets were already in place and few funds were available.

"Our city council and city manager knew our situation, which was obvious any time anyone asked for numbers. It always took a long time to generate data, and facility-usage figures were never very accurate," she says. "We needed something to help us manage our operations, beyond making an upgrade to our existing process. However, we lacked the funding to make the investment. We run a large after-school program as well as a membership facility. In the past, everything was done on what I call, 'a Big Chief tablet,' (by hand). We were still typing out membership cards for everyone."

Now, the department provides bar-coded photo identification cards for its members which are easily scanned when a member enters the gym.

With more than 45 percent of the operations focused on facility reservations, including weddings, special events, anniversaries, family reunions, Ondrias was able to leverage the city's hotel/motel occupancy tax funds toward the software purchase.

She also gathered support from business partners such as youth sports organizations who used city ball fields on weekends and managed their own player registration. "We offered to take them out of the registration business if they would support our bid to purchase the software. Using the new software, we could easily automate the registration."

Ondrias also took advantage of the software's free, hosted Internet registration, a feature that lets organizations offer Internet registration securely, easily, and more quickly than investing dollars into the infrastructure required for processing Web transactions.

100% ROI in first year
Ondrias' initial return on investment analysis showed that small productivity gains across each administrative function added up to big savings over time. Total first-year savings were estimated at $20,048, which exceeded the department's purchase price for the software, RecWare Safari, developed by The Active Network, Inc. The savings estimate also demonstrated that the software investment would pay for itself in the first year.

"Without automated components like activity registration, we would not have been able to offer the amount of classes we did this summer. From our standpoint, we generated income that helped pay for the technology investment," says Ondrias.

Simply automating activity registration is saving the department nearly 400 staff hours annually or about $4,500. By adding Internet activity registration, participants can now register online for an activity, pay by credit card, and receive a receipt—taking just a few seconds for the entire process compared to the six or seven minutes required to register by paper. Staff can look up past participant receipts and mail receipts, spending as little as 20 seconds—a one-hour process previously. Alphabetized rosters can be generated for instructors and e-mailed in just 35 seconds—a one-hour process prior to automation.

The software is also helping the department manage its high volume of facility reservations. The staff can search availability for rental rooms on different dates, reserve dates per time period, accept credit card payments, and even issue permits. In addition, Ondrias notes, the facility permits provide up-to-date rental balances every time a customer makes a payment on his or her rental. The software also provides optional expirations for reservations if a department chooses to use them.

For Ondrias, the software has resulted in improved customer service and professionalism.

"We're able to get performance measures and revenue projections, things we couldn't get before without excessive staff time. We now have some basis to go back and measure our performance year after year. The best news is we're not looking at increased staffing to do these additional activities."

Editor's Note: Rachelle Parry is the Marketing Coordinator for the City of Portland, TX.

TOTAL FIRST YEAR SAVINGS BY ADMINISTRATIVE FUNCTION:
Function Hours Saved Dollar Savings
Activity registration 364.07 $4,514.48
Facility reservation 227.21 $2,817.42
Point of sale 447.60 $5,550.24
Membership/pass management 477.11 $5,916.21
Financial reporting 100.82 $1,250.13
Average time savings in the first year:
Average time savings per function 35.15 hours
Average staff time savings 1,617 hours
>Total first year savings $20,048.48*
*Based on staff salary cost of $12.40 per hour


PRO PATHWAYS

City of Portland, Recreation Dept., visit: www.portlandtx.com or call 361-777-3301.
RecWare software, visit: www.recware.com or e-mail sales@recware.com.