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Low price, low attendance for IC Parks and Rec camps

BY TOM CLOS | JULY 13, 2012 6:30 AM

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$4 per day.

That's what it costs local youths to participate in one of the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department's sports camps this summer.

The only problem is nobody is going.

The city launched the six four-day sessions for children ages 6-12 in June and July with the purpose of teaching kids about sports and allowing them to keep active during the dog days of summer. The number of people who have signed up for the camps, however, has been less than stellar.

"Attendance hasn't been as big as I would have liked," Iowa City Parks and Recreation Director Matt Eidahl said. "When we first started we were hoping for 14-20 kids per age group, but there have been about 8-12 participants per class."

Camp co-coordinator Jennifer Dooper is one of two supervisors who have conducted the camps this summer. She said that although more individualized attention is available with smaller numbers, it's frustrating to see limitations put on what can be done each day.

"Going in you have these grand ideas of what you can do with 20 kids, but when you're working with five or six, you can't even scrimmage," Dooper said. "The numbers in total were saddening."

Low attendance also means that cancellations are sure to follow. The department shut down one of the two floor hockey camps slated for last month and the whiffle ball camp this week when both struggled to gain interest from potential campers.

It's not a lost cause, however.

Iowa City Superintendent of Recreation, Chad Dyson, was encouraged by the early results of a program in its first year of operation. He said that in the summer, especially with kids, recreational activities are usually hit or miss.

"Anytime we launch a program we obviously have high expectations," Dyson said. "But sometimes the camps have interest and sometimes they don't."

The affordability of the sessions, $18 per camp, is a factor the city hoped would spur interest, especially at a time when most people have little to do. Eidahl said that it was a strategic move to enable the department to reach out to everyone who wants to play, regardless of their ability.

"It's just a recreational program so we wanted to keep it less expensive," Eidahl said. "It allows us to encourage kids who want to come out and play to participate without being experienced in a certain sport."

Dyson didn't think there was much to change about the program as its first year of running enters the home stretch, but sport selection was a topic he was willing to explore a little bit more.

Kickball, along with floor hockey and whiffle ball, are sports that fall outside of the old-fashioned realm and it's a potential reason as to why few people have joined the program.

"We tried to identify some sports that were different and not your average baseball, basketball, and soccer," Dyson said. "We wanted to offer kids a new experience."

The superintendent said that he hopes scheduling more all-American athletics will increase participation in 2013.

"Next year we're going to look at the more traditional sports to draw some numbers," Dyson said. "Maybe we'll even expand it to offer all of the alternative sports as well as the traditional ones."

Eidahl said that the cost of the camp will remain where it is or perhaps be lowered as the department continues to work the kinks out on their new project. He said that given the circumstances, he has no regrets from the initiative's inaugural year — just a little frustration.

"The majority of the kids that are coming out are continuing to move around and have fun, so overall I've been pleased," Eidahl said. "The only thing I've been disappointed with is the number of kids."


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