by DREW HOWARD
The no. 1 provider of recreational services in the greater Rochester area is ramping up its plans for 2018.
Established in 1949, the Rochester Avon Recreation Authority (RARA) provides an extensive program of recreational activities for both children and adults that includes dance, sports leagues and health & fitness classes, among other things. RARA members can expect even more activities for all age groups to begin in the coming months.
Executive Director Ron Jewell addressed some of the financial issues that the Rochester Hills City Council had questioned him about at their last meeting. Jewell said that the delay in opening their new facilities and being unable to take in new memberships during the busiest time of the year resulted in a much lower financial result than their original projections.
“We know the timeliness of the open wasn’t opportune and that’s what put us in the financial situation that we were in, in terms of fund balance,” Jewell said, noting that they were hoping to open at the beginning of the year. “We budgeted for 12 months but we only captured roughly 8 months. Our hope was to open and capture that winter rush of people signing up for memberships.”
For comparison purposes, Jewell said that in just the last two weeks, RARA has taken in 21% of its memberships for the year. Winter is undoubtedly the busiest and most profitable time for them.
RARA now looks to capitalize on its new facilities opened earlier this year: a 10,000 square-foot multipurpose gymnasium, a fitness a center and a group fitness studio.
While the facilities are not new, Superintendent of Recreation David Word said many members may still be unaware of them as they were opened after RARA’s busiest season.
“Our group fitness studio has over 200 group fitness classes with over 20 instructors leading everything from yoga and pilates to kickboxing and metabolic conditioning classes,” Word said. “And there are two gyms, one which is enclosed with a rink system for hockey and the other with a 30 foot ceiling for basketball and competition volleyball and any other sport you can think of.”
Word added that the 4,500 square foot fitness center, which offers cardio, weights and functional fitness options, is appropriate for both children and adults. And with all three facilities residing in RARA’s second home located just steps away from its original building, Word said parents will have a prime opportunity to sneak in a work out.
“Having the building right next door is great – it’s a really good opportunity for the thousands of kids with parents sitting in the hallways to come next door and work out,” Word said. “It’ll save them time as they won’t have to wait around and then spend more time later going to another place to work out.”
Other notable 2018 programming includes a new kindergarten basketball league with adjustable hoops, term dance classes covering everything from tap to hip hop, and an adult softball league that should have even more members following the closing of liberty park.
One of RARA’s more unexpected programs looks to push the facility outside of just recreational activities and into the sciences. Beginning in June 2018, kids ages 6-14 will have the opportunity to sign up for STEM summer camps full with activities that engage the mind and teach problem-solving skills.
For example, kids at STEM camp may be challenged one day to build an irrigation system with only red solo cups, while another day they’ll set off bottle rockets or construct a lego zipline. Word said the STEM camp was largely influenced by a similar program at Oakland University.
“Oakland University has a STEM camp program for kids, and they gave us a lot of the ideas for different things,” he said. “We’re offering three weeks of introductory classes, some more advanced than others. A lot of this is what you’d learn in high school classes mixed with engineering sciences, with the purpose to help kids become makers.”
All of the above programs and much more can be found in RARA’s January-April 2018 Recreation Magazine. RARA programs are offered at a discount for Rochester and Rochester Hills residents. Non-residents can participate for an added fee of $20 per child and $28 per adult per activity. All special events are exempt from the non-resident fee.
For more information and a complete list of programs, please visit rararecreation.org