One of the first statements from Parks, Recreation and Community Ser- vices Director John Sefton was, “We’re very proud and boast of our recreation services. We have over 95,000 registrations annually.”
In giving an overview of his department’s services at a February 5 council study session, Sefton said the business services division team at one time, “they were coaches, cheerleaders or referees.”
An extensive and graphic overview was presented by Sefton and his staff that included annual revenues over the past five years in each division and the methods all intended to use to make them cost-effective and offer high quality over quantity of programs.
In an overview of the library system, the general observation showed the main and Sunrise Mountain libraries have a $4.5 million operating budget. They have 48 staff members and 50- plus volunteers. Their circulation rate is 65-percent more than peer libraries and their library programs have a participation rate 35-percent higher than peer libraries. The policy recommendation was to “maximize existing budget and service levels.’
In youth and adult special interest classes, expenditures to maintain the classes are twice as much as revenues. Over a five-year period ending in
2018, youth special interest classes brought in an average of $131,000 annually, while expenditures were an average of $262,247 annually.
For that same time period, adult special interest classes brought in an average of $27,392 annually, while expenditures were an average of $50,000 annually.
In the area of adult and youth sports at various parks in the city, one strategy was clear: Eliminate low participation programs. Also, in youth sports, there may be a shorter timeframe implemented for summer programs.
The “jewel” of Peoria — Peoria Sports Complex — was also reviewed and the general observation was in 30 spring training games in 2018, more than 200,000 fans walked through the gates. In addition to spring training, 193 additional events brought in 210,000 patrons.
It is, according the Sefton’s staff, a major economic engine with $45 million in local impact.
It is home to the city’s Halloween Monster Bash, Dolly Sanchez Easter Egg Hunt and the July All-American Festival.
The strategy currently being implemented for the sports complex:
• Maintain Cactus League Association status
• Develop and implement a destination event
• Continue exploration of Stadium Point concepts
• Use year-round destination marketing and tourism
Parks facilities were reviewed extensively, and Chris Calcaterra, parks super- intendent, said, “We are the business driver for the city in some instances.”
Peoria has 34 neighborhood parks, plus two community parks (Pioneer and Rio Vista), plus the new Paloma Park under construction in the far north end of the city on Lake Pleasant Parkway.
The staff summary concluded the park situation in Peoria is healthy and all are heavily used.
Mayor Cathy Carlat asked about retro- fitting older parks for dog parks. Although there was no commitment from Sefton, there was a discussion about surrounding neighbors and the need for dog parks.
Next year, Sefton said, the city will focus on safety in parks. Five park rangers are on staff, with the department requesting two more next year.
Councilmember Carlo Leon asked if that was enough to serve the 34 parks.
Sefton said his staff is monitoring the situation. He said if neighbors observe misbehavior, they still need to call local police, saying, “We’re never going to have 24-hour park rangers.”
Trails and way finding signs are being funded 100 percent by Maricopa Association of Governments, Sefton said. The city just received another grant to pay for trail signage from Happy Valley Road to Jomax Road and from New River to Agua Fria River.
Although no specific time was given by Sefton for trails and way finding at those locations, he estimated they would be completed in approximately 18 months.
Council member Vicki Hunt asked about trees and the urban forest, then was reassured to know the city has a program to plant trees in areas along the trails.