Elmhurst Park District addresses registration concerns

Elmhurst Park District Board and staff strive to provide enriching experiences for the community. We apologize that that goal was not met for many residents on Saturday, February 26 as frustrated parents encountered issues with the District’s registration software and were understandably angry and upset.

The experience made clear a number of things the Park Board and staff plan to address…

  • The District’s current registration software is not meeting the needs of the community
  • Residents are ready and willing to get back to programming in larger numbers than could have been predicted
  • The community desires additional programming
  • The District does not have adequate facility space to accommodate those desires

For the past four years, Elmhurst residents have logged into the Elmhurst Park District’s registration site and signed up for seasonal programs without issue. Following software glitches in 2016 and again in February 2018, Park District Board and staff did an extensive assessment of the problem and as a result, upgraded hardware, increased bandwidth and speed, installed software updates, performed additional load testing and migrated to a hosted solution, all with positive results. Following those changes, 14 consecutive registrations have been held without issue.

But unfortunately on Saturday, February 26, some frustrated residents found that the site was operating slowly or not at all. While this didn’t ultimately keep residents from registering – as more than 6,200 registrations across 1,300 households were completed in approximately 90 minutes – troubleshooting of the issue began immediately.

While a partial cause of the slowdown was presumably an outage Comcast had reported in the area, Board and staff are also looking into whether or not there was a problem with the District’s registration software and are looking to bring in an outside consultant to assist in those efforts that could include switching to a new software vendor.

In addition to the frustration in registering, a potentially more significant issue surfaced on Monday, February 28 after staff had a chance to review registration reports. Reports showed that transactions increased 61% over the previous pre-pandemic spring registration numbers, totaling 6,500 within the first 24 hours. The number of households registering increased 25%, and unique registrants were up 23%. But the most shocking number to staff was that of the wait list numbers. In most years, the District sees an average of 300 people on the waitlist for spring programs. But in the latest registration numbers from Saturday, that number drastically jumped to 3,460, an increase of 800%.

“Registration trends have shown slight increases in demand for programs each year before the pandemic, but quite frankly there was no way to anticipate that waitlist numbers alone would increase by 800%,” said Executive Director Jim Rogers, “Last fall our registration numbers were some of the highest in the previous five years, and there were no issues with the software. But this kind of an increase was not something anyone could’ve reasonably predicted.”

While the Governor’s mask mandate was announced just ahead of spring registration, there was no way staff could’ve anticipated that or predicted the significant increase in registrations, given that we were at the height of the omicron wave when the spring brochure was put together. Even the odds of returning to a normal, pre-pandemic summer seemed remote.

But those waitlist numbers illustrate a clear, overarching issue - Elmhurst residents have shown that there is incredibly high demand for Park District offerings. Unfortunately though, the Park District is very limited with programming space in inadequate, decades-old facilities that have been repurposed to serve the recreational needs of a changing community.

During the Park District’s last strategic planning process that began in 2016, the community made it clear that they wanted newer, bigger facilities to meet those needs. But ultimately, residents were not willing to support a referendum that would have enabled the Park District to provide those opportunities. And when the pandemic hit, talk of a referendum of any size was immediately halted.

“The Elmhurst Park District only receives a nickel of every dollar in taxes, and our tax rate is in the third lowest of all DuPage County Park Districts,” said Executive Director Jim Rogers, “We wish we were able to provide bigger, better facilities and to offer more programming, but unfortunately the reality is that at this point in time we can only operate within our current financial limitations and space constraints.”

As Park District staff begin the process of preparing for the summer brochure, the Park Board and staff are committed to coming up with a solution for the registration issue, which may once again include having a separate registration for large programs such as gymnastics. More details will be released ahead of summer registration, scheduled for Saturday, May 7.