Putting Recreation First for the City of Los Angeles

Devin Meister

January 26, 2023

With a mission to ensure their community stays active, the Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, puts recreation first, referring to themselves as a “Recreation and Parks Department.”

When you have more pools than some departments have people (50), providing equitable and fair recreational opportunities requires operating at a massive scale. That size was a prime consideration when the search began to replace their homegrown software solution. As Kimberly Sielen, Systems Analyst, Department of Recreation and Parks, City of Los Angeles, recalls the small size of many companies in the parks and recreation space was a concern. “We were terrified that we would kill their system or they’d have two full-time employees. We’re like, that’s not gonna work.”

They knew they needed a partner that understood the market and their needs. Those understandings led them to Vermont Systems in 2015. “It’s a vertical company that does not spread itself thin,” said Alex Yee, Director of Systems, at the department. “They have consistent support and had been in business for 30 years at the time already. We felt confident that they could handle our demands for the system.” And they have a lot of demands.

“We felt confident that they (Vermont Systems) could handle our demands for the system.”
Alex Yee, City of Los Angeles

Flexibility for Modern Family Life

Having a flexible back-end was critical to enabling the City of Los Angeles to configure registration activity requirements to their needs. A key to providing equitable access to programs and facilities is recognizing the realities of families today. That includes divorced parents, single parents, grandparents, and guardians – all of whom could play a role. “The way Vermont Systems structured the system with household and members is unique – I had not seen it in other systems,” says Yee. “It’s flexible for a modern family, for example,  where divorced parents can still work together to register children and pay for them in different methods.” That ability extends to their initial disclaimers and waivers as well. “For safety and legal purposes, we’re able to manipulate and configure it to our needs.”

Data to Drive Decisions and Ensure Equity

Another advantage that Vermont Systems brought was the ability to structure data reports to match the needs of the recreation department. This was critical because each of the 120 rec centers has a large degree of independence, including its own ID for online item accounting.  While the centers are self-funded if possible, they need to ensure that low-income families and children have access. “We have to know where the money comes from and from which center,” says Yee. “We are not looking at the market for a pricing model that we can charge to sustain our departmental expenditures. The Vermont Systems data collection capability allows us to get more data regarding income levels and different things we can use as a dashboard to look at where we can better direct the resources to serve the citizens.”

“The Vermont Systems data collection capability allows us to get more data regarding income levels and different things we can use as a dashboard.”
Alex Yee, City of Los Angeles

Impacting the Health and Promoting Activity for Generations

Keeping track of resources and participation is a critical part of meeting their initiatives and properly allocating funds from their different partners and sources. For example, their partnership with LA 28 Olympics Committee, a nonprofit that has committed over a hundred million dollars to the department to support activities that tie into Olympics leading up to the event. “Because of that, we are offering activities on by participant basis that would ordinarily cost $100, $200 or more, for 10 bucks,” said Yee.

Teaching skills that build confidence and ensure safety, from hiking to camping to swimming is another focus of the department. “Swimming has been a big push by our mayor because of safety,” says Yee. “Everybody likes to jump in the pool and we want people who jump in the pool to know how to swim.”  A quick look at the number of participants in their swimming programs shows they have made thousands in their community safer.

Gender equity and ensuring that girls have equal access and opportunities is also an area of focus. “Now the number of females who participate in sports is almost equivalent to the number of males in terms of total participation,” said Yee. One way they are promoting that is through a women’s coaching program. “Girls who see a female coach might feel safer. And having female role models can give girls a confidence boost to continue and enjoy sports.”

Through it all, the Vermont Systems solution helps them to streamline their processes so that their community can enjoy and participate in all of the recreational activities the City of LA offers. At the same time, the department is collecting data about actual usage to ensure that recreation stays front and center in the City of Los Angeles.