Denton, TX Launches CivicRec and Celebrates New Parks and Rec Software
According to Caroline Seward, CPRP, City of Denton Parks and Recreation Program Area Manager, despite having a population of residents that wanted to take part in community activities, it was difficult to manage promotions, communications, signups, and logistics for all the community’s events due to the outdated parks and rec software solution the City was reliant upon.
“Our citizens have always been engaged, but we faced challenges because we didn’t have the best online platform to encourage citizens to register,” said Seward.
While the City’s previous software system did allow citizens to register for programs and activities online, it didn’t allow citizens to reserve available facilities, such as park pavilions or cabanas at the City’s wave pool. The system was also not robust enough to manage the documentation and paperwork needed for the city’s summer camps, which meant recreation staff was managing those programs manually using paper-based systems.
“Citizens had to register for those activities in person, and our staff had to do everything manually,” said Seward. “It was not very convenient. It was time-consuming. Our staff spent a lot of time answering and returning phone calls and even making themselves available after hours.”
The Decision to Launch a Robust Parks and Rec Solution
It was evident to Seward and Heather Gray, Athletic Manager, that the City of Denton had outgrown its previous parks and rec management solution.
“We had been using our previous parks and rec software since 1998 and we only had one upgrade since then,” said Seward, adding with a smile, “Technology has changed a lot since 1998 so we really wanted something more user-friendly.”
Not only was Denton in need of a more user-friendly, robust solution, Seward and Gray were notified that their previous parks and rec software would no longer be supported. To begin the process of finding a replacement, the City issued a request for proposal (RFP) to find a new partner.
“We didn’t make it an easy process for prospective vendors,” said Seward. “We outlined over 30 pages of specs that we needed from new software.”
After an analysis of the received proposals, a single solution provider was evident.
“CivicRec met all of our non-negotiables,” said Seward, “And, it was able to integrate with the payment processor our City had contracted with. That was very important to us. In addition, CivicRec opened for us the ability to allow online registrations for summer camp, manage leagues and facilities. Plus, it’s user-friendly for our customers and our staff, especially compared to the system we used previously.”
A Successful CivicRec Implementation
Seward and Gray used the CivicRec implementation as an opportunity to refine their internal processes to ensure they were working as efficiently as possible.
“We spent time looking at our internal processes and asking ourselves, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’” said Seward. “We had adapted our processes previously to make them work in our old system. Transitioning to CivicRec gave us a good opportunity to reevaluate the best way to manage our processes and make sure we could perform key functions using the CivicRec system.”
Seward and Gray also used the transition to CivicRec as an opportunity to train more members of their team to use the software.
“When we implemented our previous software, the implementation was managed by a single individual. This time, with CivicRec, it was ‘all-hands-on-deck.’ We got everyone involved and taught them how to create and manage programs and facilities. We also brought representatives from CivicRec on-site to help with training, and we held internal training sessions. We wanted our staff to learn how to use the CivicRec system to make sure that when we launched the software, we were ready to successfully manage our programs and facilities.”
The “Launching into the 21st Century” Launch Party
When the setup and training of the CivicRec software was complete, it was time to party. The City of Denton celebrated its launch of a modern parks and rec software with a community-wide party. Community members were invited to stop by the parks and rec department to tour the new software, create new accounts, and learn how to sign up for classes and reserve facilities.
“We held the launch party at the same time that our new fall activity brochure was released,” said Seward. “The party took place at the time when many parents were coming to pick up their children from summer camp. We served pizza and drinks and had a representative from CivicRec on-site to answer questions and help citizens learn how to use the new system.”
According to Seward, the party’s theme focused on the launch of CivicRec as an effort by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department to launch into the twenty-first century.
“The ‘Launch into the 21st Century’ theme was a natural fit since there were so many functions that we couldn’t accomplish in the previous system,” said Seward. “We knew our community wanted an improved system that was easier to use, so it seemed a perfect alignment to say that we were launching new software and launching into the future with it.”
A Modern, Easy-to-Use Solution
Today, the citizens of Denton are pleased to have access to a modern parks and rec management software.
“For our citizens, it’s now easy for them to create an account and find programs,” said Gray. “In addition, the program brochure that we release twice per year is now integrated and interactive. It’s helping to encourage customers to link from the brochure right to our CivicRec software to sign up.”
Seward agreed, adding, “The functionality to sign in with a Facebook or Google account has also made it easier for our customers. Also, our customers like being able to reserve our facilities online. CivicRec includes a map feature, so our customers can see exactly what pavilion or cabana they are reserving to be sure they are choosing the one that’s right for them.”
Seward and Gray also list CivicRec’s family calendar and account history among the most valuable citizen features.
“We used to have to send out statements during tax season so that parents could see what they paid for child care,” said Gray. “Now parents can pull their own receipts directly from the system.”
In addition to offering conveniences for citizens, the CivicRec system provides insights and access for class instructors who are now able to view their class lists online before the first class session.
From an administrative perspective, CivicRec has also allowed the City’s Parks and Rec department to streamline the management of its required paperwork.
“We’ve had a complete shift in technology,” said Gray. “Everything was so manual before. We had to maintain paper waiver forms with our previous system. Now we can email digital waivers. Our summer camp and after-school program registration and payment processes were manual too. Previously, parents would have to drop off a check in person. Now we can invoice them, or auto bill them through CivicRec and they can go online to pay. We’ve already had quite a few parents take advantage of the new online billing system at the end of last month. That feature will definitely help us reduce staff time.”
CivicRec’s ability to integrate with the City’s financial system has also been a significant time-saver for the City’s parks and rec staff members.
“Financial reporting is so much easier with CivicRec,” said Seward. “That alone has saved us hours a day. We have multiple locations that we manage, so now we can create custom reports easily that can be filtered any way we need them. Now, everyone can get all the information they need. We can also save report filters so that we don’t have to re-create custom reports each time we need information.”
In addition, Seward and Gray point to such additional time-saving features as social media integration and the ability for citizens to renew fitness registration or pool memberships online as functions that allow the City’s parks and rec staff to save time while giving citizens better access to the modern features they wanted.
Looking to the Future
The quick adoption of the CivicRec software by Denton citizens has reassured Seward and Gray that CivicRec is the right long-term solution for the City.
“People who are used to online registrations love the CivicRec system,” said Seward. “They’re so happy to have it and we’ve only just started to get the word out. Even our seniors are using the system. We wanted to ensure we chose a system that would work for all our customers. So far, our senior population is one of our most active populations using the software.”
Not only is the City of Denton comfortable that they have chosen the right software, they are comfortable that they have chosen the right partner.
“We are really happy with CivicRec,” said Seward. “And we’ve received nothing but really good feedback from our customers.”
If you're ready to retire your outdated parks and rec software and launch a modern, functional solution to better engage citizens in our community, click below to sign up for a demo of our CivicRec solution.