Boulder Rec. Center is Alienating Members
The Boulder Parks and Recreation department has been good to me for 4 years. That’s the number of consecutive years in which I’ve purchased yearly memberships at the City of Boulder Recreation facilities. I have felt in each of these past 4 years that I have gotten my money’s worth. I was content, if not happy, to pay the almost 1000 dollar fee (it’s changed a few times, but it’s roughly 1000 dollars for the family) for the convenience of simply showing my card and proceeding to the pool or racquet ball court or whatever. However, in addition to paying this yearly membership fee, I also pay several hundred dollars per month for my boys to take gymnastics lessons, some untold amount of money on group tennis lessons through the city, a few hundred bucks for private swimming lessons, and occasionally a few bucks on a yoga class or some such similar instructor led course. These things add up, people! The one area I didn’t have to pay anything extra as a yearly pass holder, up until now, was for the use of the public tennis courts after the sun went down. At least, happily, the front desk would turn the light on for me without trying to squeeze me for my pocket change. No more.
1 Dollar Per Half Hour for Electricity:
You may say “Big deal! That’s not too bad!” Maybe paying a few bucks every week for court lights is only a minor inconvenience for someone who plays sporadically, but I play a lot more tennis than a normal person. My son and I play 7 days a week for 2 or 3 hours each day. That’s an impressive amount of tennis. But, I used the courts at night last year because it was fun and convenient – not really because I absolutely had to do it. We were out there maybe twice a week at night. In fact the boys and I have used our membership benefits for the pool and other “normal” sorts of activities perhaps 15 times in the last year (We would need to use it 51 times to make up the cost of membership). The benefit to me last year, in terms of getting the most out of my yearly pass, was the several dozen times I used the tennis courts at night. It still didn’t make up the cost of my membership, not by a long shot, but boy it was convenient, and convenience is worth something to me. It made me feel like I was getting something valuable for my money even if the Parks Department was still making out like bandits on the fees paid by my family.
No Longer a Significant Benefit for Members:
Non members have to pay to reserve a tennis court at night, and I don’t. But, member or not, we all have to pay for lights. I think that policy takes away a major incentive for a person like me to have a membership at all. It’s not because the cost of lights is overwhelming, because it isn’t. This move by the Boulder Parks department to charge members for lights simply seems cheap. That’s right; it’s a matter of pride. Perhaps they don’t see the true value in members like me. People like me, and there are a lot of us, have kids in all kinds of activities, and we pay full price for all of them. We also hold yearly memberships despite using it far less than our investment pays for. We’re practically giving them our money just for the sake of convenience. How many yearly pass holders, in any gym or similarly configured business, actually get their investment back on membership? I can’t give a solid statistic on that, but I’m sure you’re with me in guessing, based on what is I’m sure our shared experience in the area, that it’s not many. The whole reason clubs have yearly memberships in the first place is because they know members almost never get their upfront investment back. Yearly memberships are the money maker at these places! Why on earth would you, as a business owner, antagonize them on such a ticky-tack move?
They Say They’re Offsetting Costs!
Derrick Tripp, From the Parks Department sent me a response to my inquiry about the lights. Here it is:
I appreciate your concern regarding the lighting at the North Boulder Rec. Center. As we do with our East Boulder Comm. Park tennis courts, there is a $1.00 fee per half hour for lighting. The biggest reason that this fee has been implemented is to help with energy costs. Although the $1.00/hour does not offset all of our energy costs, it is also a way for us to regulate the lit court usage. The North Boulder Rec. Center has recently replaced lights and bulbs which makes for better play. I’m not sure who the woman you are referring to is because there was actually a male who was Park Planner at the time in charge of the EBCP project. I appreciate your feedback, and it will be discussed further. If you have any further questions/concerns, please feel free to let me know (contact info. below). Thank you.
Recreation Coordinator – Sports
City of Boulder Dept. of Parks and Recreation
1360 Gillaspie Dr.
Boulder, CO 80305
(303) 441-4137 – office
(303) 441-4448 – fax
To me this entire explanation sounds disingenuous. Firstly, the North Boulder Recreation Center light switches are inside the building, behind the front desk (you know, where they have complete control over them). A player has to physically go inside to request the lights be turned on. If that’s not regulating light usage then I’m confused. Secondly, in my original letter to him I indicated that I had spoken to a nice lady last year who I thought was in charge of the light installation at the east center and who told me members wouldn’t have to pay for lights (I actually did spend the time to ask last year). What is Derrick doing by pointing out in his response that the project lead was a male and not, as I thought, the lady with whom I spoke? What is he proving by putting me in my place with that statement? I definitely spoke with someone involved with the project. Who cares if it was the project manager? Derrick could have just said, “I’m sorry, but you were misinformed.” He had no reason to choose condescension.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly in terms of value, they did change the bulbs in the lights last year, but the light fixtures themselves at the North Center are complete pieces of crap. They’re dangling at odd angles and emit light that is barely sufficient for game play. And several bulbs are even broken. Derrick makes it sound like they invested gobs of money at the North Center. Hardly! If you’re in Boulder, pay a dollar and see for yourself how much light you get for your money. It’s playable, but hardly ideal. Actually, here below are some pictures of the light fixtures. See what I mean? They’re old! I admit that the East Center lights are quite nice, almost like playing in daylight, but I rarely go to the East center at night (I live next to the North Center), making it of little value to me. Yes, this entire maneuver has nothing to do with adding value to me and everything to do with paying for a product I don’t use. Don’t try to lie to me, Derrick, by saying something that frankly sounds like my 9 year old lying about why he was playing video games instead of studying.
If the city of Boulder wants to “offset” its costs it should consider attracting more yearly members, not squeezing current members for a few paltry dollars. I think Boulder could attract more members – by using the excellent lighting at the recently renovated East Center as a new incentive. That’s how business works. You add value and you get more business, take away value and you lose business. As the situation stands the added cost to members is negligible, but it serves as a pretty compelling reason to question the value of membership. The city government’s short sightedness is going to cost it a lot more than it returns. I’m certain that Derrick is not to blame for this ridiculously, but typical, governmental reasoning. It was obviously a committee decision – a really stupid committee decision. Derrick, I’ve met him, is a perfectly friendly guy and I have nothing personally against him, except for this not very well considered response to me. I once worked at the University of Oklahoma and I, too, recall almost face palming myself as I answered e-mails with what I knew was nonsense but had no choice but to say.
That’s my rant for the day. I’m peeved, and now you know why. Agree or not, The Boulder Parks and Recreation Department is definitely not going to offset their costs by nickel and diming me. However, I might just “Offset” some of my costs by refusing to pay them. That’s a few thousand bucks I’m sure they could have used.