Bringing the Fun at Elk Grove Park District

Devin Meister

March 26, 2021

Parks and Rec departments face a number of challenges. People look to parks for fun without breaking the budget. For that reason, parks have to be both responsive to the public and conscious of their budget.

It can be a fine line. Elk Grove Park District in Illinois found that Vermont Systems enabled them to do both. With a population of 38,000 people, 42 parks, and a variety of centers including a water park, there was a lot of activity to keep track of. At the last Vermont Systems Symposium, we tracked down Suzette Schwartz, Application Administrator for the district, to see how they were meeting the challenges and made the decision to go with Vermont Systems. Following is an excerpt of that interview or you can watch a video here.

Q: What are the goals for your district? 

A: Working in a park district and serving local residents and customers can be challenging. At the Elk Grove Park District, we have a mission to provide safe and innovative parks and recreational opportunities. We’re here to provide fun, so of course, people come to us to have fun. There are a lot of challenges to meet the needs of our customers. We try to be flexible when changes are needed to their schedules and the choices we offer to them. The District conducts Village-wide surveys to the residents every few years.  We also do smaller surveys with customers to find out what they want in the programs they are currently taking. In my position, I try to meet the needs of the customers I serve on a daily basis and try to make the changes they need in what we have to offer.

At the Elk Grove Park District, we have a water park, a children’s theme park, summer camps, and many parks. These facilities require part-time summer staff. It’s always a challenge to attract the young staff needed to work at these seasonal positions. This isn’t a situation unique to our District. Neighboring districts face the same challenges to fill summer positions. Elk Grove has an incentive program providing a bonus of $100 for each person you can bring in to fill any of these positions and that person last the duration of the summer. There is also a generous benefits package that includes a fitness membership, a pool pass, and a large discount on our programs.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: I have a very rewarding job as demonstrated by spending my entire career at the Elk Grove Park District.  I love working with people so customer service has been the best fit for me. My biggest reward is to see my customers smile. I get to know people’s names and I have a personal connection with our customers. Currently I train all the customer service staff. I’m in a good position to be able to share my passion with the staff that I train. I am able to work with both staff and customers. Building strong relationships with people is the key to good service. I enjoy what I do and I’m grateful to be able to share what I love.

Q: What’s the benefit for the community to having a well-rounded program?

A: The benefit for the community to have well-rounded programming is the overall experience. Providing quality programs for all ages is necessary for any community. Families bring their children to experience art, dance, swimming, and sports. Adults have the same opportunities in programs as the children have. But they can also join a fitness center or senior center to meet their needs and age requirements. The District has a great staff that works hard together and listens to the community to see what they want. We offer new experiences and keep up with the trends in recreation. We are always changing so our programming does not become stale and routine.

Q: How long have you been using RecTrac? 

A: The District has been using RecTrac since November 28th, 2019. We had a wonderful implementation specialist. His knowledge and training style helped with our implementation and made our learning painless. We chose to roll out the system later in the year and it worked out very well for us. We definitely did our due diligence and did our homework. What I recommend to any agency considering Rec Trac is to analyze your internal processes. For 18 years we used a different recreation software. A smooth transition to RecTrac is dependant on knowledge of your processes in order to fit into the framework of the RecTrac program. We had to refine and change some of the ways we had been approaching our systems. Everything worked out well for us.

Q: What do you tell people about Vermont Systems and selecting a park and recreation solution? 

A: I would definitely say Vermont Systems is a great company. I just love the support staff. In our search for a new system, we interviewed several different companies. Park District budgets are limited and have to balance cost and value. My opinion is we received good value for the cost of RecTrac compared to what the other companies had to offer.

Meeting Whatever Is Next

Change can be difficult, especially after nearly two decades on the same software. Elk Grove made the switch to Vermont Systems to meet the changing needs and requirements of their community all while being conscious of their budget. With broad experience across the parks and recreation industry, Vermont Systems solutions can help you reach your goals. Learn more about what Vermont Systems can bring to your district.