By Bob Uphues
Brookfield's new recreation director wants to open up rentals of park facilities, such as picnic pavilions, to more people each year while also producing more revenue to support the department's operations.
Stevie Ferrari unveiled her plan to modify the village's park facilities rental policy and implement a new fee structure during the village board's committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 12.
She said the new policy and fee schedule will be available on the village's website by Dec. 1 in order to give residents time to digest the changes and make their park rental plans for 2019.
"This is a small change but a big step in bringing the department to be more sustainable," said Ferrari, who in July was hired as Brookfield's first full-time recreation director since 2003. "More revenue means more free events and improvements to the parks."
Ferrari said the park facilities rental policy was on her radar almost immediately, because she was faced with having to turn down so many requests to use park pavilions because they were already booked.
The existing policy allows day-long rental of pavilions, whether or not they are used the whole day. That means only one group can rent a particular facility on any given day between May and October.
"A lot were birthday parties and family picnics [that last a couple of hours at most]," Ferrari said, in a phone interview last week following her presentation to the village board. "How can we make sure we have a system where we can serve more people?"
The answer was to book facilities and charge for those uses on an hourly basis.
During 2018, according to Ferrari, the department scheduled 103 rentals, counting all park facilities, during the 50 weekend days allotted for them. The total revenue amounted to just $6,320.
Ferrari said that figure could easily double just by providing facilities to more than one group per day. The department also seeks to gain rental revenue by charging a fee for use of the lower-level recreation hall inside the Brookfield Village Hall.
The new plan also places more distinctions on just who is renting park facilities and charges them accordingly.
The existing system assesses charges on a resident/non-resident basis only. Moving forward, in addition to charging residents and non-residents different rates, the fee schedule will also take into account nonprofit and for-profit status of organizations renting facilities and whether or not an organization is based in Brookfield.
Ferrari's proposed fee schedule showed that groups of 75 people or less would pay between $25 and $100 per hour depending on resident or organization status for park pavilions, the Kiwanis Park band shell and the indoor recreation hall.
On Nov. 20, the village's Playgrounds and Recreation Commission is expected to consider additional rental fees for groups of more than 75 people.
"Anything over 75 people is truly a special event," Ferrari said.
Those additional fees will also be incorporated into the new facilities rental policy that will be available online in December.
Ferrari said she hoped the changes, which will allow more people to use park facilities, will also eventually end the annual practice of people camping out in order to claim pavilion slots on the first day the department begins accepting rental requests.
"We're allowing for more rentals, so there's an increased likelihood of getting your date," Ferrari said.
And, if you are going to get in line early, said Ferrari, be forewarned that you're going to need all of your paperwork completed and have your rental deposit in hand. Only complete requests will be time-stamped and guaranteed.
"Just waiting outside the door doesn't give you any edge," Ferrari said. "We want to create an equal opportunity for everybody."