Monday, March 29, 2010

Revenue Development & Managment School

I recently returned from the NRPA (National Recreation and Park Association) Revenue Development and Management School at Oglebay Resort in West Virginia. This is a professional development school that is celebrating its 45th year. What it really amount to is a business school for park professionals.

It is a week long school with a two year curriculum. To assure that it maintains high academic standards Dr. Phil Rea, the former Director of the Park & Rec Program at North Carolina State University, advises the school.

In the course of the two year program students learn everything they need to put together a comprehensive business plan for a new or significantly changed park, or program. The capstone project is a written business plan that teams of 5-6 students put together and then they stand before a mock City Council and do a power point presentation where they lay out their plan and field questions. It is fantastic real world experience.

I have the honor of being one of seven Regents for the school. The Regents are park directors that serve as both the board of directors for the school as well as the instructors. The Regents are greatly helped by two leading professional that are selected as "externs" as well as Dr. Rea. This year I taught classes on developing marketing plans, innovation, as well as co-taught a class in contracting services and co-lead the first year student’s project.

Both first and second year classes were great. The parks professional that are sent to this program by their agencies are the top notch go-getters that are looking to hone their business skills to advance their agencies and invest in their own careers, and professional development.

In my planning for the course on marketing, I ran across a quote from Dr. John Crompton a leading thinking in the park field. Crompton was recounting how shortly after he came to the US from England, he was asked to give a presentation on marketing at one of the national conferences for park officials and almost no one showed up, not understanding what marketing had to do with parks. That was 1976.

Today the successful park agencies are the ones with good business acumen. In addition to the greater need to generate non-tax dollar funds for operations, there are simply many more ways for the public to spend their leisure time than in the past. If we are going to attract the public to spend more time outside engaged in healthy activities, we need to sell what we have to offer and not assume that the public will simply “find” our parks and facilities as they have in the past.

Interestingly even in a year when most public park agencies have been cutting their training budgets in reaction to the recession, the Revenue School saw significantly increased attendance this year. I think this reflects the understanding that many park agencies are developing that to succeed they need to know how to run their operations in an increasingly professional and business like manner.

For more information on the Revenue Development and Management School see the web site for the school at:


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