Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Landmark Study Provides Findings on National Survey of Park Agencies and Youth Football

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Landmark Study Provides Findings on National Survey of Park Agencies and Youth Football

Article excerpt

In 2006, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) was awarded a grant to develop a national inventory of agency contacts and related data for rectangular fields used for youth football (and often other sports), as well as youth football program providers. Through this grant from USA Football, national findings and analysis related to field data, ownership factors, public agency budgets (overall expenses and cost recovery), and youth football participation are now available.


NRPA used this outreach effort to identify agency contacts, facilities and programs to aid research that can advance advocacy, strategic partnerships, and provide contacts for program and/or facility grants. NRPA contracted with a national management-consulting firm, GreenPlay, to oversee the project and research. GreenPlay also utilized the services of Design Concepts, RRC Associates, and Geowest. These firms performed the level of service analysis, mapping, national web-based surveying, and athletic fields assessment. Following are highlights of some of the findings, innovative research methods, and analysis to date.

Overall Goals

* Create a national database and inventory of parks and recreation contacts for cities, towns, and special districts with populations greater than 5,000

* Create prototype processes that may be used by NRPA and others for dynamic national inventories of other parks and recreation related amenities, programs, and services

* Identify contributing factors to promote and increase participation, and gain funding and fields for youth football programs

* Continue outreach to increase agency response on a national level and potential for regional and local focus

Two Primary Focus Areas:

1. Detailed investigation into youth football programs and facilities for five hub communities selected regionally to identify facility and management factors that may or may not contribute to the potential growth in participation for youth football:

* Fort Collins, Colorado

* Glendale, Arizona

* Howard County, Maryland

* Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

* Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

2. Creation of a national inventory online survey and outreach tools to identify contact information, general administrative and management information, along with field information from all communities with populations greater than 5,000 in the United States In addition, this tool allows NRPA and GreenPlay to conduct future research on other facilities or program areas.

Brief History of Lever of Service Analysis and How it Relates

In order to help understand how park and recreation amenities and services like youth football serve the public, researchers, planners, and parks and recreation professionals have long been looking for ways to benchmark and provide "national standards" for how many acres or numbers of various types of amenities a community "should have"--their ideal "Level of Service." A Level of Service (LOS) has been typically defined as: the capacity of the various components and facilities that make up the system to meet the needs of the public. This has often been expressed in terms of the size or quantity of a given facility per unit of population, and usually called "capacity analysis" or "standards".

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the first detailed published works on these topics began emergingi. In time "rule of thumb" ratios emerged with 10 acres of parkland per thousand of population becoming the most widely accepted norm. Some studies went further to make recommendations regarding an appropriate mix of park types, sizes, service areas, and acreages, and standards regarding the number of specific available recreational facilities per thou sand of population. Some of these studies were published by NRPA Publications, and the table of standards became widely known as "the NRPA standards". …

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