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Maintenance systems ensure smooth operations for recreational facilities

This is an excerpt from Recreation Facility Management with Web Resource by Richard Mull,Brent Beggs & Mick Renneisen.

Maintenance Systems

The production and delivery process should not be subject to negative developments because of facility maintenance practices. A recreation facility is designed to create and deliver a product without disruptions. Recreation facility managers should ensure that a maintenance system is in place that attends to all nonroutine developments before they negatively influence operations. Maintenance systems should be created in the most effective way possible and should include planning, work orders, and work assignments.


Fundamental to a sound maintenance system is having a plan in place for addressing all potential facility and equipment maintenance concerns. A maintenance plan should incorporate both short-range and long-range planning. Planning is critical because so many details are involved with the maintenance responsibilities of a recreation facility. The key to planning is to anticipate deterioration, repairs, and replacements rather than having to react to them. This can be a demanding responsibility. However, not everything can be foreseen, and unexpected developments require a planning system that addresses whatever may occur. Planning must be evaluated regularly and modified as necessary. In order to keep facilities and equipment functioning properly, inventory, assessment, and task identification are often built into the maintenance planning process.


A basic task of a maintenance system is creating and maintaining a complete inventory of everything that exists in the agency. This process creates precise records for reference whenever necessary so that accurate information exists, leading to proper planning. Detailed information about every aspect of a facility and its equipment is usually gathered to reflect quality, quantity, condition, number, type, size, cost, age, and location. This information can be used to help with planning various areas of maintenance, including budget, development projects, emergency assistance, preventive steps, production concerns, and the need for extra help.


The facility assessment process allows maintenance employees to contribute to a systemized maintenance plan. This type of assessment does not address user needs, but focuses instead on the maintenance needs of a facility as identified by maintenance personnel. Maintenance employees can be scheduled to make a visual check of a particular area or piece of equipment. This inspection can be scheduled regularly as the maintenance employees perform routine tasks associated with their position. Maintenance employees are in the best position to recognize limitations that need to be identified for both short-range and long-range maintenance planning. These assessments can discover structural problems, unsafe situations, efficiency system failures, potential emergency situations, and other routine and nonroutine maintenance concerns. This information should be incorporated in a plan to address the facility or equipment problem. Assessment results can also be interfaced with formal feasibility studies or risk management plans and needs assessments that may be underway. Assessing facilities and equipment is a proactive effort that helps identify and solve problems before they can affect product success.

Task Identification

In order for nonroutine maintenance work to be initiated, information regarding the maintenance concern has to be submitted. This information can come from observation or assessment by three sources: maintenance employees, production staff, and product users. It can be presented through verbal complaints, user complaint forms, and staff requests for assistance. Each option should cite some type of problem that needs attention. Management should be prepared to receive this information, which may be relayed in a negative fashion, with sensitivity. This feedback is important because it offers information that could have a negative effect on delivery operations and customer satisfaction. Once maintenance situations are identified, they should be placed into a work-order system that addresses maintenance concerns in a timely fashion.

Work Orders

When a nonroutine maintenance issue is identified, it is necessary to have an action system that evaluates the problem, makes a judgment, prioritizes it with all other needs, and then assigns an employee to attend to it. This responsibility can be demanding, especially in a large agency. The response to a maintenance issue should be organized through a formal maintenance work-order system that includes a control center and job form and number.

In the work-order system, a formal documenting process should begin when a maintenance issue is identified. This request is a written or electronic form that identifies the category of work, its location, its nature, and whether it is an emergency (see figure 14.2). Some emergency situations may be handled by telephone, postponing the completion of this form until a later date. The request form usually requires a signature from the person completing it, along with additional information such as the department, telephone number, e-mail address, and detailed description of the nonroutine request for service. This request initiates a process that takes administrative time and effort and has a financial impact on the agency.

Figure 14.2 Maintenance request form

Control Center

After a request form is completed, it is often routed to a central place for review and assignment. This location for maintenance operations may be called the control center. This stage of the process is administrative in nature and represents the authority in receiving, reviewing, assigning, and supervising work. During this stage, an administrative judgment prioritizes all work, assesses costs involved, coordinates and assigns workers, and oversees work from beginning to end. This stage also includes keeping pertinent records and documenting all work performed.

Job Form and Number

A job form represents the official assignment of the work that needs to be done. As part of the form, a description of the work is included along with a job number, which serves as an identification code for the work. This number is usually logged in a sequence that can be applied to a written or computer-generated form. The job form and number assist in keeping accurate records, provide easy access for review, and track all work as it is being completed. It authorizes and assigns the work to a specific maintenance employee or team that usually stays with the job through completion. Copies of the form are made available to the requesting person or unit, the maintenance employees completing the job, the control center, and the administration so that all parties can be updated on the status of the job.

Work Assignments

After the request form is processed by the control center, an administrative manager assigns the job. This can be influenced by the extent and degree of the work required, availability and ability of workers, financial resources available, and level of demand. A work assignment requires management to supervise the work in progress and make sure that it will get done correctly and in a timely fashion. There are various options for assigning work depending on the structure of the agency and the type of work to be completed. These options include assigning work to units, specialized crews, or outside contractors.


One approach to getting nonroutine work accomplished is to have it performed within a particular unit. A unit is a component of the maintenance division that responds to agency-generated work requests. It has the benefit of being familiar with agency facilities, grounds, and equipment and their respective maintenance needs. A unit could be a complete area or building with a crew that is responsible for all maintenance operations within that area. For example, a park maintenance unit may be responsible for mowing, trash removal, equipment repair, irrigation system repair, horticulture maintenance, and so on.

The advantages to a unit approach to work assignments include employees becoming familiar with maintenance of particular facility areas and ease of determining responsibilities. This type of system also breeds a high level of loyalty and pride within the unit. On the downside, employees need to learn a variety of jobs, supervisors must have diverse capacities to oversee work and equipment, and a unit approach may not make the most efficient use of expensive equipment.

Specialized Crews

Specialized crews consist of people who are trained to have specific skills. Examples of specialized crews include tree surgeons, mechanics, carpenters, locksmiths, plumbers and electricians. Because of their experience or certification, they are considered experts and their work is expected to be of the highest quality. These specialists could be the only ones who can competently complete a particular task. Large recreation agencies may have enough specialty work to keep these types of employees busy.

Specialized crews could be scheduled to move from one area or facility to another to perform their specialized work. The advantages of this system are that crews become extremely proficient at their work, expensive equipment is used efficiently, and the chance of accidents is less because of workers' experience and knowledge. Some disadvantages are that repetition of work tends to create boredom and mediocre work, and the assignment of a specialized crew to a variety of locations results in time lost for travel.

Outside Contractors

Depending on the management structure of certain agencies, some nonroutine work cannot be completed by internal maintenance staff. Recreation facility staff may not have the expertise to perform some facility maintenance needs. When this occurs, arrangements can be made with outside contractors to perform the work. These arrangements should always be completed through a formal arrangement. Special attention should be given to the contract to make sure the task is described so that there can be no mistakes or communication breakdowns. When work is contracted out, it is advisable to provide agency supervision of the task to make sure that the work is accomplished.

Contracting is frequently used by recreation agencies when a task cannot be accomplished internally, it requires specialized employees, or it is simply more efficient to contract out. The advantages of contracting out certain tasks include well-trained workers, no capital investment in equipment, no in-house personnel problems such as unqualified staff, appropriate insurance protection carried by the contractor, and decreased workload for in-house maintenance staff. On the other hand, there are some disadvantages for contracting out maintenance, including loss of control of when and how work is completed, higher costs, less vested interest in the facility and operations by external employees, and potential difficulty in coordinating contractor's time with facility usage.



More Excerpts From Recreation Facility Management with Web Resource