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Bret McKenna

 MBA 590

 Field Experience Paper

Western Washington University

Wade King Student Recreation Center

            Starting in January 2004 I began my field experience work at the Wade King Recreation Center. I met with Bob Hofstetter, Membership Services Manager for the Department of Campus Recreation, and we discussed the purpose of the internship and developed a contract. Bob was looking for new revenue generating sources that the Campus Recreation Center could use to supplement its current income from membership services and the $80 quarterly mandatory student recreation center fee. Bob envisioned that the Rec Center could be used by high schools for their Senior Graduation Party Night. The goal was to have one high school rent the Wade King Recreation Center facility for use of their grad night party.

            My task started with selecting high schools within an appropriate geographical drawing radius that would be potential targets for renting the Rec Center. Once I had a list of schools from the surrounding counties and their contact information I once again met with Bob. We discussed the proper approach to contacting these high schools and being put in contact with the people making the decision regarding the planning of Senior Graduation party nights. It was understood that I would have a late start on this project and that many high schools would already have something planned at the beginning of the school year in September.

After compiling a list of schools to contact I had to generate a list of potential sites that schools might have used in the past for graduation parties. This consisted of researching area venues throughout the counties that high schools were located within. Once this was completed I had two lists in which I would start my information gathering process. I first began by contacting schools and conducting background research into what schools had done in the past for recreation. This process was much more intensive than what I had expected. Being put in contact with the right person who would know such information, or who was currently planning a graduation party for the senior class became a continuous process of jumping through hoops. Some schools were unwilling to give out information for the parent of a senior student of whom I could get in contact with. Other schools had groups or committees that organized such events and it was consider an outside school activity. For the most part these were isolated incidents, in most cases I was able to get in touch with the decision makers for planning the senior graduation party.

Speaking with people from the high schools I found that many schools had, as accepted, already planned their senior graduation party. However, many people whom with I spoke with were interested in information regarding the Wade King Recreation Center and its use for their future graduation parties. After searching and making contact with dozens of high schools I was left with three schools that were interested and had not yet planned a graduation party, Mt. Baker, Friday Harbor, and La Conner high schools. These would become my perspective schools that I would target to have them rent the Wade King Rec Center.

After I learned where schools had went in the past for senior grad night parties, where they were planning on going this year, and their budgets and past expenditures, I started to plan a prospective range that we could charge for renting out the Rec Center facility. I also contacted the potential locations that schools might use for renting their facilities and found what these locations charged. Next I contacted my list of potential venues that could be rented for high school senior graduation parties and found out their charges for renting out their facilities.

            One issue that I ran into in both dealing with the high schools locations being used and venues that might be rented, is that both high schools and some locations go through a third party organization called Grad Nights. Grad Nights is located in Seattle and they organize senior graduation parties for high schools and coordinate events that will go on at certain locations. Some of the schools I made contact with had planned their graduation night party through Grad Nights. Wild Waves, Family Fun Center, and Argosy are some companies that go through Grad Nights to have their facilities rented for high school graduation parties.

            Once I had contacted different venues I compiled my results. Some facilities rented for a few hundred dollars an hour or a few thousand dollars for the whole night, while others such as going through Grand Nights could cost easily over $10,000. From this point I looked at the zone of potential agreement that would occur based on the costs of renting a facility and what schools had budgeted to spend.

            While I was working on contacting businesses to find out charges for renting their facilities I was constructing a promotional and informational brochure/flyer that could be sent to the schools to inform them better about the Wade King Recreation Center and what it had to offer. I started this project by looking through what resources where available to use. Bob provided me with a Facility Facts Summary document that had a very detailed description of the Rec Center, its facilities and history. However, this document would not have been appropriate to send to schools. First it was too long and second it contained more information than what was needed. Based on information provided in this document, I was able to construct two different informational brochures/flyers to send out to the schools.

            The first document I designed was a single informational page which contained information about the Rec Center. It explained that it was a new facility that was shaped by the vision of WWU students. There was information that gave a background description on what the facility had to offer in the way of amenities and equipment. At the top of page was a picture of the outside of the Wade King Rec Center.

In addition to this first document I created another two page document that would go into more detail on what the Rec Center had to offer. This document had a detailed description of the facility offerings laid out in a bullet format. I was able to use photos of the Rec Center that had been taken with a digital camera to promote the facility. From these photos I was able to match up amenity and facility equipment photos with the descriptions that would pertain to them. This document would work as a better promotional tool to increase interest from the schools. Having a visual representation to go along with the description added to the presentation effect. The photos highlighted what words alone could not.

After drafting and presenting both of these documents to Bob, I created a fax package to send off to the schools. This package included contact information for both Bob and myself, along with the two documents I had created. Once I had faxed these documents to the schools I made follow up calls make sure they had received them.

            I received interest from the three target schools. Each school requested more information on how much it would cost to rent the facility. From the interests of the schools I met with Bob and discussed what should be set for a target price for rental of the facility. Based on data that I had collected from schools and their budgets, along with other area venues and their charges for facility rentals we made a decision on what the Rec Center should set as a target to achieve.

            The three schools we were currently dealing with had a varying range of senior class size and available budget. One of the main goals for Bob on this project was to get one school in to rent the facility by the end of this school year. Some of the costs could be absorbed, and lowering our rental charge could be done to a certain level, as it was more important to get a one school in during this year. If we could get one school in and they were happy with what the Rec Center had to offer then their word of mouth advertising could be worth a lot, and could create them as repeat customers, and potentially attract other schools for the future.

            Our targeted goal for having the Rec Center rent for was $2000. But in keeping with our other goal of getting a school to rent the facility we knew that the $2000 target might have to be changed. We also realized that a flat fee was probably not the best idea on how to approach three different schools with three different senior class sizes. Therefore, to maintain our goal we implemented a $25 per student charge with a minimum charge of $2000. This strategy would allow us to achieve our goal of $2000 for a small school, at the same time achieve a higher rental charge for a larger school.

            To fulfill the informational needs that the schools requested I constructed a costing sheet along with an advertising page on how their Senior Night Party could go. My plan was to create a roadmap for the schools on what they could expect, and use this to create a tie in for them wanting to use the Rec Center. I faxed these two pages off to the schools, and followed up by calling them to make sure they had received the information and that is was being passed on to the appropriate parties.

            During the next couple of weeks while I was attending other staff meetings with Bob and working on other projects, such as looking into getting many new first time students into the Rec Center, I continued to stay in contact with the schools. I found out that several of the schools were having parent/student meetings to discuss or decide on their Senior Class Party plans.

 As I contacted the schools I found out what date their graduation was occurring and at what time, so that the Rec Center could accommodate them at their anticipated arrival time. It was a fairly easy task to secure the date for the schools graduations, and since all of the graduations were taking place in the evening there was no real problem with conflict of Western students using the facility at the same time as the high school senior class.

While we were waiting for the schools to come to a decision we also offered those who were making the decisions along with any students or other parents that were interested in the use of Wade King Recreation Center to come and tour the facility free of charge. They would be allowed to tour the facility and to work out in the facility for the day at no charge to themselves.

La Conner and Friday Harbor were still both deciding on what their Senior Class would do for a graduation party as my internship period with the Rec Center was winding down. But both said they would keep the Rec Center in mind, and may tour the facility as June graduation approaches. However, before I finished my internship Mount Baker High School came to visit the facility. A small group of teachers, parents, and students toured the facility and used the equipment. They were impressed with the facility and what it had to offer. After speaking with Bob about the rental charge the group was ready to make a $500 deposit to hold the facility for their graduation date.

Approximately one week after their visit a member from the group that visited the Rec Center stopped by to give Bob a $500 check to hold the facility. The remainder would be paid before the graduation day. Bob secured the day and time they would be arriving. He informed me the next day that Mount Baker High School was going to have their Senior Class Party at the Wade King Recreation Center.

One of the last projects I was working on for Bob was evaluating companies to target that could potentially be sponsors for the Rec Center. While the Rec Center was not going to have the type of corporate sponsorship/advertisements in it that the Carver Gym does, there were still areas that could be used inside the Rec Center for advertising. Located near the entrance and the lobby area in the Rec Center there are two to three tri-fold boards that currently have information posted on them about the Rec Center and current events. The future plan is to have tri-fold headers with company names advertising on top of these boards, in addition there would be a new electronic reader board that is going to be constructed and located outside the Rec Center. Companies would also be targeted to sponsor events weeks, such as Yoga Week, Kids Night Out, or Aerobics 101 Week. In order for the sponsorship idea in the Rec Center to be effective it would require companies seeing a benefit from spending money. Keeping this idea in mind my task was to target companies in the local area that would have a relational tie to the Rec Center, such as in Health and Fitness. It could be easily shown to companies based on the foot traffic the Rec Center receives on a daily basis that their ads would be seen.

Based on what we wanted to accomplish in having companies buy advertising space I started my search. I realized that the selection process would have to have a tie in with the Rec Center. I began to first focus on companies that were in the sports/fitness business, in which I was able to generate a wide list of potential companies. Then I focused on the Health field. From these two areas I had a far size list. Finishing up I looked at companies that would be interested in targeting the student consumer market. When I was finished I had a list of nearly 40 companies in which I was able to present to Bob and show him how each one would be a potential target for buying advertising space in the Rec Center.

From my experience working for Bob at the Rec Center on different projects I learned many important skills that I can take forward in the future. First clearly stating what your goals are before going into a project and making predictions on expected outcomes gives you a framework from which you can work within. Second preparation and extensive background work are necessary to put together an action plan. When looking for facts and figures be prepared that many people will not be willing to provide you with information even if you take a straight-forward honest approach with them. In prospecting potential customers it is a good idea to look from their point of view. Presenting information that will be effective should be your first consideration, as you should try to understand what the other parties’ interests are. You should judge the impact of what you created will have from the perspective of the customer you are targeting. Lastly, if you are able to offer something in the way of tangible evidence, as we were able to by offering schools and parents the opportunity to visit the Rec Center, it can be the move that the customer will not expect, and can help put your over the top, and it can help you reach a commitment to what you have previously presented to them.