Beginning Monday, February 28, Seattle Parks and Recreation will ask customers at its 25 community centers (Rainier Beach is under construction) to sign in indicating their age group and time of arrival. This is a pilot project which will help gather data and will help Parks staff respond to a City Council directive to reconsider how community centers are operated. After two weeks Parks will evaluate the information and decide whether to extend it for 10 more weeks. The process, which includes public meetings to discuss with the community ideas for how centers can be run differently, began with a public meeting on February 2.
The directive comes in the context of the budget: the cost to run the 26 centers far exceeds revenue brought in from center programs. Because of the current difficult budget situation, Parks is exploring alternatives that would offer continued services for the public, while reducing costs, including new methods of management, staffing, fundraising, and partnerships. Learning the average age groups, frequency of visits, and numbers of people visiting community centers each day will help this work.
Parks has also convened a Community Center Advisory Team comprised of community members, representatives from the Board of Park Commissioners, representatives of employee unions, employees, the Associated Recreation Council, and City Council and City Budget Office staff.
Parks staff are in the process of using the public input to develop options, and Parks will hold another public meeting in the spring to get input on those specific options.