On Saturday, February 10th, Special Districts Association of Oregon (SDAO) presented Sisters Park and Recreation District (SPRD) with the Outstanding Special District Program Award. This award gives recognition to member districts for accomplishments which allow them to provide better service to the public.
Over the past twenty years, SPRD has expanded from essentially an after-school program to a district with 11 full-time employees with a budget of over $1.35 million running 100 programs, five parks, and a community center with no increase in tax rate since its inception. One of the major factors influencing this financial turnaround was the utilization of sports tournaments and special events to boost the performance of the district. These events engaged large numbers of people that were not often served by past park and recreation programming, provided high quality competition in the case of sports tournaments that often was not available locally, and generated revenue from out-of-town participants that then could be used to subsidize programs for locals.
These programs provide the district with the opportunity to directly interact with Sisters residents, many of which would not participate in any other program offered. Program benefits are dramatic. For example, the SALI Tournament raises over $20,000 to fund the Sisters Park and Recreation Lacrosse Program. Without this tournament and the revenue it generates, it would not be possible to run an expensive sport like lacrosse.
SPRD operates over ten special events a year accounting for approximately 20% of its overall budget including:
- The Sisters Shootout Basketball Tournament Series that draws over 60 teams per tournament from all over the Northwest.
- The SALI Tournament which draws over 70 lacrosse teams from as far as British Columbia.
- The Crest the Cascades Bjarne Holm memorial Bike Ride which is a supported ride for hundreds of participants up and over the McKenzie Pass.
- The Hawaiian Luau which brings the experience of a traditional luau with food and music to 500 Sisters locals and visitors.
- The Sisters Glory Daze Car Show that attracts cars and visitors from all over the state.
- The GNW Cross Country Running Camp that brings kids from all over Oregon to camp on the SPRD grounds and train at altitude running the best trails in Central Oregon.
- The Buried Beef Feast where 250 pounds of meat are buried on hot coals overnight then served to hundreds of locals with great live country music.
- The Sisters Homebrew Festival that brings together homebrewers and beer enthusiasts to celebrate the art and science of homebrewing.
- Kids Appreciation Day which packs one of the local parks with kids and families for a free day of food and fun.
- Community dinners that run quarterly in partnership with the high school sports bingo nights.
Special events through SPRD now account for more face-to-face user interactions than all other programs combined. SPRD’s model of initiative and innovation is one that could easily be replicated at other park and recreation districts across the state.