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Sport, Leisure and Culture: New Planning Challenges

Times change and so do citizens’ needs. It is essential for municipalities to reflect this as they plan infrastructures, equipment and the sport, leisure and culture services offered.

During the 60s, 70s and 80s, this was a relatively easy exercise, for many reasons:

  • Demographic forecasts were growing;
  • Clienteles were uniform;
  • Citizens needed few activities;
  • The services were provided almost exclusively by the municipality.

It’s clear that this same exercise now requires municipal leaders to have more skills and abilities than in the past.

In the past 20 years of our sports, leisure and culture practice, we’ve identified seven complex, challenging planning issues.

Clienteles are varied

They are in all age groups, come from various cultural backgrounds, have different ways of life and use services differently. This new information must be properly understood to identify innovative municipal strategies.

Competition is increasing

More and more businesses and organizations provide leisure equipment and services, sometimes placing the municipality in a competitive situation. This situation should be transformed into an opportunity to enter into partnerships. While some municipalities have already opted for this model, in the coming years, it will become more common and essential. To give just two examples, consider the need to coordinate with other government bodies regarding community and sports equipment in schools and the cultural equipment financed by the Ministère de la Culture.

Trends are evolving rapidly

Citizens’ leisure tastes and interests can change at the speed of light, which means that a municipality’s investment choices can quickly become obsolete. When making development and management choices, municipalities must ensure that their infrastructure and equipment will stand the test of time and not become costly and obsolete. They sometimes need to make difficult choices that consider citizens’ concerns and the social and political context.

Managing finances must be equitable

In the coming years, there will be increased pressure on ensuring financing equity between activities and organizations. In the past few decades, municipalities made choices to support activities and organizations (directly or indirectly, by financing infrastructures). With the sometimes explosive growth in the number of sports, leisure and cultural organizations and activities, municipal authorities need relevant, powerful analysis and decision-making tools. Unlike Issue on partnerships, where municipalities have made some inroads, there is still much work to do to ensure the fair and strategic management of municipal financing for sports, leisure and cultural organizations and activities, for example, events and festivals.

The environment is taking on greater importance

It is increasingly important to consider climate and technology issues. Some of the infrastructure and development planning challenges include outdoor skating rinks, air conditioning in schools (gyms and common areas, etc.), parks, green spaces and public spaces (shaded areas), etc. In terms of technology issues, there is a distinction to be made between improving management tools and service-related tools (for example, the library of the future). Technological progress will help managers improve client services and support the development of true scorecards and performance indicators (in line with Issue on financing).

Citizens are becoming increasingly involved

Over the years, citizens have become increasingly involved in the planning process. However, they no longer limit their involvement to surveys or meetings with organizations, they want to be part of the analysis and determination of strategic directions. They even want to take part in the equipment concept and design (co-creation). Municipal managers therefore need to master new planning skills and abilities.

The increase in tools requires extensive coordination

The extent of sports, leisure and cultural planning tools available to municipal mangers is expanding: policies (family, cultural, healthy life style, etc.), master plans (parks, green spaces, sports or cultural equipment, etc.), segment strategies (elite sports, technological or climate adaptations, public health, youth, etc.). While these tools are essential for a structured planning process, they should be fully integrated with each other and very often, we find that this is not the case.

The financial and political importance of properly managing municipal sports, leisure and cultural events requires municipal decision makers to find new ways of planning infrastructures and the service offering.

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