Positioning Public Recreation and Park Offerings Using Importance- Performance Analysis


  • Kindal Shores Hunt
  • David Scott
  • Sarah Richardson


Positioning, importance-performance, public parks and recreation


A position refers to the place that a public recreation and park agency occupies in the minds of elected officials, decision makers, and citizens relative to other services that compete for tax dollars. Positioning is also the process of fostering a desired status for public recreation and park agency in the minds of citizens and elected officials. Fostering this status can be achieved via real, competitive, and psychological positioning. The purpose of this study was to explore promising positioning strategies for a recreation and park department in a large midwestern city (referred throughout as Midwest City) in the United States.Using Importance-Performance (I-P) analysis as a guide, Midwest City Parks and Recreation could position itself by focusing on the desired public benefits falling in the quadrant keep up the good work. These benefits included increasing community pride, enhancing family recreation opportunities, helping residents stay healthy, preserving natural areas, and making the city a better place to live. These benefits, however, were deemed to lack the political clout to secure increased funding since Midwest City Parks and Recreation was meeting residents’ expectations in these areas and were struggling to maintain existing funding. Given public sentiment, it would be unwise to select a position falling in the low-priority quadrant. Although benefits within this quadrant (increase property values, help residents meet other people, educate residents about the environment, make businesses want to relocate, bring tourists to the city) may be viable in the eyes of park and recreation academicians and practitioners, Midwest City residents regarded these benefits as relatively unimportant to American cities and felt that Midwest City Parks and Recreation were not delivering them to residents. Selecting one of these positions would require moving residents’ perceptions of the Midwest City Parks and Recreation a great distance. Public opinion is difficult to change and efforts might be more rewarding if focused on keeping youth out of trouble.Keeping youth out of trouble was felt to be a viable positioning strategy for two reasons. First, a large proportion (78%) of residents agreed or strongly agreed that recreation and park agencies in the United States are instrumental in doing this. Thus, at present residents felt youth services to be a mandate of the recreation and park profession. Second, residents reported that Midwest City Parks and Recreation is performing inadequately in this area. Just over half (53%) agreed or strongly agreed that Midwest City Parks and Recreation keeps youth out of trouble. The combined importance of keeping youth out of trouble, in combination with Midwest City’s poor performance in this area, make this a position Parks and Recreation officials might plausibly consider. In the discussion, we described how Midwest City might engage in real, competitive, and psychological positioning in terms of keeping youth out of trouble.





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