Donation helps rec center thrive in lean budget times
Rockland — During the June 9 Rockland City Council meeting, councilors are scheduled to accept a Rockland Savings Bank donation of $3,119 for a new scoreboard to be placed in the Rockland Recreation Center basketball gymnasium.
It will replace the present scoreboard that is more than 20 years old.
Every donation helps the city Recreation Center thrive in lean budget times as the department seeks to "increase our revenue stream," said Rene Dorr, the center's director for the past 13 years.
One large donation that has helped was $20,000 in weight training equipment recently contributed by Optimum Performance of Rockland. The equipment helps maintain fitness center members who pay $25 per month or $50 for three months.
Acting City Manager Thomas Luttrell has informed the City Council that Recreation Center revenue is expected to decrease $16,000 over the next year — from $73,000 in 2014 to a projected $57,000 for the upcoming 2014-2015 budget year beginning July 1. The decrease is primarily due to the city not charging an overall Recreation Center membership fee for children and adults, as it had in the past.
The city has decided to keep the no-general membership fee policy in place for at least the next fiscal year. In the meantime, the city will spend nearly $369,000 on its recreation budget this year ending June 30, which is set to increase slightly in 2014-2015 to $371,153.
The Recreation Department thrives during the summer but even more so during the winter with its kindergarten- through sixth-grade Pee Wee basketball program, he said. Most of the Pee Wee games are played at the Rockland Recreation Center, involving teams from Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Cushing, and Vinalhaven. Teams pay fees for center use, and the Saturday games often involve teams playing doubleheaders, starting at 9 a.m.
More than 300 children participate, with another 150 participating in spring soccer.
"We don't turn kids away here," Dorr said. "If a parent comes in and doesn't have $20 for their child to play basketball, we still let them play basketball."
City recreation does have its share of "revenue-stream generator" programs for both children and adults, and is always looking to find more, Dorr said. One of those successful programs for children, Summer Day Camp held at Chickawaukee Pond and its Johnson Memorial Park, will start June 23 and run until the start of school in the fall. Forty children ages 5 to 12 enjoy activities including weekly field trips, arts and crafts, and movie time Tuesday mornings at Flagship Cinemas in Thomaston.
The cost of the summer day camp is $100 per week, per child, with 40 signed up, Dorr said June 4. There is a waiting list. "It's an excellent revenue stream," he said. "We're full every year."
By contrast, the after-school program barely breaks even, Dorr said, which means "We're taking a hard look at that program." But the city does not want to cut after-school activities during a time when Regional School Unit 13 has reduced after-school offerings, he added.
On the adult side, an adult dodgeball league has been popular, bringing in $100 per team with 10 teams participating, he said. Dorr said he is working with his only other full-time employee, Benjie Blake, to create other leagues for grownups that can generate revenue.
"Our adults in Rockland are at the age now that they want to play their old youth sports," he said.
Courier Publications reporter Larry Di Giovanni can be reached at 594-4401 x. 117, or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
207 594-4401 ext. 117
Larry Di Giovanni, a veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, is returning to his daily reporting roots in order to cover the city of Rockland for The Courier-Gazette. Originally from Athens, Ohio, his family includes one son, Tony.
Di Giovanni has covered news beats ranging from the city of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., to the largest tribal government in the United States — the Navajo Nation. He has also worked as a writer in the public education and higher education fields. He's an animal enthusiast and loves dogs.
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