Service Delivery


  1. Infrastructure
  2. Programs and Services
  3. Delivery Approaches
  4. Sport and Partnerships
  5. Role of Parks and Recreation within the Market Place
  6. Volunteers and Service Delivery
  7. Francophone Services
General Questions

All kids playing


The City has a goal to ensure all residents have the opportunity to be healthy and active. To accomplish this the City provides recreation services with a commitment to:

  • Improve access to services by decreasing the reasons that prevent people from participating
  • Ensure that access is affordable
  • Respond to community needs for all ages

Ottawa's population is constantly shifting and expanding. As the population changes, so too do its demands on recreation services. To keep up with these changes, the City is looking for feedback from the public that will help give the City direction to guide future policy decisions.

The following paper will provide an overview of the way the City is presently delivering recreation services and ask questions to assist in developing a direction for recreation service delivery over the next 10 to 15 years. The paper will discuss:

  • The services that should be available from the City
  • The delivery approaches to be used by the City
  • The type of relationships the City should develop with different communities and stakeholders

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In 2001, the City of Ottawa was created from the amalgamation of 11 urban, suburban and rural municipalities, each offering different services. Since then, the City has focused on areas needing attention including improving services for residents with special needs. New sports fields and arenas have been built to help bridge the growth in population and demand from clients and the services available.

There are variations in how services are provided in rural, suburban and urban areas of the city. Currently, the City's delivery system is based on three main factors:

  • History of service
  • Capacity of the community (roles and responsibilities defined in a partnership)
  • Scope of the service

These factors play a role in who delivers the services and under what type of agreement. The spectrum of approaches includes:

  • Services offered via full-time staff (City staff or community-based staff)
  • Services offered via volunteers (sport organizations, community associations and other groups)
  • Services offered via contract agreements with community associations - these may be offered by either or a combination of the first two approaches

The most appropriate approach is often dependent on the scope of the service. For example, large multi-use centres, such as the Nepean Sportsplex, are managed by City staff, who offer some programs and support different organizations and groups to conduct a variety of program activities for residents. In rural areas local community centres are often managed and programmed through community associations. With sport groups, similar to most rural associations, the City provides the facility and the organization is responsible for the management and implementation of the program activities. These differences in how and by whom services are delivered is one of the strengths of Ottawa's recreation system and demonstrate how organizations, groups and individuals play a major role in shaping recreation.

The City has also been a strong facilitator for specific programs that are used by a limited portion of the population. With access to City property, organizations fund operational and, in some cases, capital costs of their recreational activities. This has created strong opportunities for the development of more advanced and varied facilities and activities than seen in many other communities.

The issues surrounding the variety of agreements and delivery methods lead to some of the key questions that will help shape the direction of recreation - what services the City should be offering, and what accountability and responsibilities should community partners have when operating programs or services on behalf of the City. Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services is currently developing a partnership strategy to ensure communities contributing to program delivery are recognized through a transparent decision-making process.

Ottawa is expected to have a 30 per cent population increase in the next 20 years. Variation in growth will see an increase in the number of older adults and in immigrant populations while the percentage of children and youth will level off. The following chart provides an overview of the expected changes to Ottawa's population.

City of Ottawa 2006-2031 Population Demographics PDF Version (11 KB) 

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It is important to the City that services provided in the future reflect the changes to the population and that those services are offered in a manner consistent with resident's expectations.

The City presently offers recreation services, including:

  • Multi-use facilities to accommodate a variety of sports and recreation services
  • Community-based facilities e.g. neighbourhood community centres that provide program activities and meeting spaces.
  • Facilities and services to accommodate events and special activities such as major tournaments, community events, and festivals
  • Outdoor facilities such as pathways, parks, wading pools and sports fields that provide informal opportunities for residents to be active

The City continues to offer traditional recreation activities such as swimming, child supervision, physical activity and sports to different groups.

These activities are offered to all age groups: pre-school, children, youth, adults, adults 50+ and seniors 65+, as well as to persons with disabilities, low income and of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. These services include instructional classes, drop-in programs, workshops, special events and sports leagues. Most of these services have a participation fee.

The City is the largest seasonal employer of youth. It offers employment opportunities that will enhance youth development and leadership skills, and contribute to the successful delivery of recreation service across the city. This is also complemented by volunteer hours that youth sometimes contribute to the City as part of a 40-hour volunteer requirement needed to receive a secondary school diploma.

In essence, partnerships allow Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services to be able to facilitate many different levels of services than it could not offer on its own. Recreation has a long tradition of volunteer involvement and engagement. The demographic change in our population has affected how members of the community wish to volunteer and the type of assistance they are seeking from the City to provide recreational opportunities. As a municipality, we are looking to determine the services the City's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services should provide, to whom, at what standard, and the level of community involvement in the shaping and delivery of services.

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A. Infrastructure

Developing plans and strategies for recreation services will help to establish the vibrant, healthy and active city envisioned in the Ottawa 20/20 plan. Combining the goals of the Transportation Master Plan with planning guidelines (Smart Growth), that suggest facilities should be built along major transportation routes, will help make facilities more accessible. These strategies, along with the Environmental Strategy to link neighbourhoods and communities by pathways, will make recreation more accessible to residents. This is important to the delivery of recreation services, as transportation is one of the main barriers to recreation for youth, seniors, low-income residents, immigrants, and people with disabilities.

The City's vast system of parkland and pathways provide opportunities for most residents to participate in both informal and scheduled activities. This feature is one of the main reasons people are attracted to live and work in Ottawa. Parks are offered at no cost to residents (with the exception of sports fields for league play) and for the most part, are subsidized by tax dollars.

The development of new buildings and infrastructure is guided by policies for both park development and the need for a specific type of recreation facility in a community. These policies are based on population density, existing recreation services in the area, and citywide recreation needs. The City is currently working to develop multi-use facilities in new developments that provide a one-stop shop approach to service delivery. Development fees support these facilities.

Many of the existing facilities located in the central and rural areas of the city, such as single-pad arenas and pools built in the late 1960's and early 1970's, are in need of major funding to bring them up to today's standards. In some cases, though the facilities no longer meet the needs of the residents in the immediate neighbourhood they are still being used by a variety of groups from across the City.

The City understands that there is a need for neighbourhoods to have general meeting and programming space, but existing budgets do not provide for the redevelopment of facilities within older neighbourhoods. Funding for this purpose, therefore, relies on the tax base for support. It is important to determine how the City can continue to provide these services, maintain facilities and program activities within its current budgets.

In planning for the future, it is important to determine how to provide access to meet growing needs while being aware of the shifts in demographics and trends. For example, over the last 10 years there has been an increased demand for skateboarding facilities. Currently these demands are being met at specific locations. The location selection was based on appropriateness for development, community needs, and the current policy that determines the location of facilities.

Infrastructure - Key Questions
  1. Should we continue to develop or redevelop smaller neighbourhood-based community centres?


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B. Programs and Services

Introductory level programs are the foundation of services provided by the City. These programs offer a variety of learning experiences such as dance instruction or aerobics classes, based on the needs and demands of the community. The following chart provides an overview of who participates in City recreational programs.

Registered Programs Participation Version PDF(11 KB) 

2008 Revenue Generation

Table 1: Types of Programs - provides an overview of the types of programs and the City’s role in providing these services.

Program type Definition City’s role
Introductory Structured “learn to” or participatory programs that promote lifelong learning. These programs benefit the individual and the wider community’s general health and wellness.
  • Revenue-based services. In general, these services almost meet the cost of providing the services.
  • Often these services are provided directly by Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services or in partnership with a local community association or group.
Intermediate Programs that primarily benefit the individual through the continued development or competency in specific skills. These programs and services may require specialized facilities and instruction. These programs are most often delivered by outside associations with advanced technical skills. The City often provides the venue for programs at this level within community centres.
  • Facility provider
  • Provides the service directly or in partnership.
  • These programs and services support the individual’s needs for advanced skill competency.
  • These programs may require sophisticated and expensive facilities and instruction, most often provided by clubs or associations. In some special cases the City does provide advanced instructional programs.
  • The availability of these programs can be limited. Programs often receive the least amount of municipal tax support.
  • In most cases, the City provides the facilities but does not implement the program directly.

Table 2: Program Services and Service Delivery Approaches - provides an overview of the program services and delivery approaches used by the City

City facility operations Program services delivered by the City Program services delivered through community group support and partnerships Public private partnership (formal agreements)
  • 34 arenas for a total of 43 indoor ice surfaces
  • Ice rentals
  • Recreational skating programs
  • Public skating
  • Skating lessons
  • Hockey schools
  • Hockey leagues
  • Figure skating clubs
  • Skating clubs
  • Ringette league
  • Public-private partnerships (P3s): e.g. Sensplex
  • 100 community centres
  • 10 major complexes
  • 300 halls
  • 36 gyms
  • Fitness and wellness programs
  • Special needs programs: therapeutic programs, integration opportunities
  • Cultural programs
  • Day camps
  • Child supervision
  • Gym sports
  • Rentals for community meetings, programs and special events
  • Purchase of service agreements for facility operation and program delivery through community associations
  • Facility/centre operation through informal partnership
  • 180 various partnerships/affiliate agreements
  • Unified bookings with schools.
  • Reciprocal agreements with school boards (public-public partnerships)
  • 11 standard pools
  • Three wave pools
  • Nine outdoor pools
  • 58 wading pools
  • 75 water play/ spray pads
  • Four beaches
  • 16,045 swimming programs
  • Public swimming
  • Learn to swim programs
  • Lifesaving/drowning prevention
  • Aquatic certification
  • 17 per cent of rental hours to swim clubs, synchronized swimming, water polo, diving
  • Contracted services
  • 300 sports fields
  • 350 ball diamonds
  • Rental hours
  • accommodating 750 community and sports leagues
  • Purchase of service agreements with recreation and sport associations
  • Grants
  • 108 tennis facilities (273 tennis courts)
  • 77 instructional programs
  • Free court-time at public tennis courts
  • Tennis club agreements regarding community-based operations
  • 850 parks
  • 234 outdoor rinks
  • Informal use at 14 skateboard parks, basketball courts, play structures, etc. and outdoor rinks
  • Maintained by the City. Permitted park use at specific park sites.
  • Outdoor rinks operated under purchase of service agreements with community groups.
  • Specialized facilities such as the equestrian centre, golf course
  • Instructional programs
  • Rental opportunities. Maintained and operated by the City.
  • Agreements for skilled resources
  • Hornets Nest Super Dome

The City plays an important role in providing facilities including parks, sports fields, arenas, pools and community meeting space. The types of programs offered in an area depend on the individual neighbourhoods, their demographics and the type of facilities available.

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services is one of many recreation service providers. Others include school boards, community associations, and private operations like fitness centres, and sport or cultural associations. Together they provide a wide range of activities within the city. While there are different levels of programs offered throughout the city, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services is committed to ensuring services fulfill the needs of Ottawa's residents. Though at times some of these other services providers operate in the same areas as the City, it should be noted that in most cases the City's programs provide access to a different clientele.

Speciality programs and facilities such as the City's equestrian park and golf course add diversity to the services available to residents. These services are operated totally through fees paid by clients.

Allocation of Space - Key Questions
  1. Does the City currently offer an appropriate mix of recreation services?

  2. Is our blend of introductory, intermediate and advanced programming appropriate?


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C. Delivery Approaches

The City is developing guidelines to outline how it should partner with community groups looking for more input into recreation services. Community participation, collaboration and coordination are key factors in defining the City's model for service delivery.

Partnering or collaborating with others to deliver services to the public has been a foundation of recreation in Ottawa. Table 2 clearly illustrates that the City is not the sole provider of services, but plays an important role. In some cases the City's role is simply to provide the space, particularly for sports programs where associations deliver most of the activities using City facilities. This is similar for many community groups, who rent the facilities from the City and then provide program services to their community.

The City has entered into a range of agreements with organizations to provide recreation services. The school boards and the City have a mutual agreement whereby the school boards provide gym space, meeting rooms, and outdoor fields for City-run programs. In exchange, the school board has the use of sports fields, pools and ice-time in arenas or outdoor rinks. The City has also entered into public-private partnerships (P3s) with the business community so that facilities are available to meet the ever-growing demands in recreation. All of these agreements help to ensure that residents have access to recreational activities.

Agreements with community associations and groups to run facilities and programs range from having key access to sports field storage areas, to operating programs and managing facilities. The outdoor rink operation gives community groups grants for the development, supervision and maintenance of neighbourhood outdoor rinks. The City provides the necessary support for the group to offer the service, including a water source, hoses and rink boards. Currently, there are approximately 25 different types of funded service agreements with community associations or groups who are providing recreation programs and services in different neighbourhoods.

The City is working to develop policy guidelines that will define the different service agreements it enters into with community groups, and the roles the City plays. The challenges to these agreements are the defining factors of the partnerships and collaborations, resource costs, liability and revenue.

Delivery Approaches - Key Questions
  1. Should the City's standards and policies be applied to our partners offering recreational services?

  2. Should the allocation of facilities be based on the City's approach to program delivery (accessible and inclusive, etc.)?


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D. Sport and Community Partnerships

Sports are great examples of successful community partnership. Sport associations and community clubs manage most sport activities. The role the City plays is to provide the rental facilities for hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, ultimate and many other sports. The clubs, community and sport associations operate the activities. Sport has the most participation by children and youth in recreational activities. Sports activities contribute to how we develop our parks, our community centres and our multi-use centres. They account for approximately 80 per cent of our facility rental revenues.

Allocating space and accommodating different sports are two major challenges the City faces. The levelling off of participation in baseball and the increase in soccer registrants has meant that parks need to be designed differently. As participation levels of some sports increase, they put stress on facility requirements and the volunteers who organize the activities.

Sports require different types of facilities for different levels of skill. There are requests to build facilities for more competitive sports. It is important that the City have the support of the public before a consideration is made to move in this direction. With high-level facilities the City can bid for tournaments or games that would not otherwise come to this area. These facilities are often more costly to build and maintain, but contribute to the economic base of the City, while providing opportunities to talented citizens.

Sport and Community Partnerships - Key Questions
  1. Should the City ensure that community-based leadership (e.g. community and sport associations) provide accessible and safe environments for our residents?

  2. When planning future facilities, should the City incorporate the requirements of high-performance sports and special events?

  3. Should some facilities be designated for specialized use (e.g. 50-metre competition pool, Terry Fox Athletic Centre)?


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E. Role of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services within the market for recreation services

The City is operating a number of programs that may appear to be in competition with the business sector or other service providers. In many cases entry-level services offered by the City are either complementary to programs offered by other service providers, or they target different groups or clientele.

Some activities, such as fitness classes and fitness memberships, are offered in our multi-use facilities. Revenues from memberships are used to fund services for participants and reduce the tax support for recreation services across the City. If these services were cut, revenues would decline and result in either a reduction of services or increased reliance on tax support.

The City of Ottawa is questioning what role it should take in programming services in order to ensure all residents have access to recreation activities.

Role of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services - Key Questions


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F. Volunteers and Service Delivery

Community volunteers provide additional options for residents to participate in activities in their neighbourhoods.

There are two types of City volunteers:

  1. Those who work directly for the City and assist City staff in recreation programming. Each year, volunteers provide service that is equivalent to 21 full-time staff members.
  2. Those who work with a non-profit organization that has an agreement with the City. The cost to the City is often reasonable and allows the community to actively participate and support their residents.

There are a number of issues challenging the recruitment of volunteers. These challenges have a tremendous impact on recreation services that are currently offered by sport, culture and community associations. Time constraints on personal and professional lives leave smaller amounts of time for volunteering. The most significant shift in the last five years has been a move from long-term commitments in groups like Brownies, to episodic support where volunteers use their skills in a short-term project, like at the National Capital Marathon.

More goal-oriented management practices, accountability and liability concerns have put pressure on non-profit organizations to:

Volunteers and Service Delivery - Key Questions


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G. Francophone Services

In 2001, the Bilingualism Policy was enacted, stating that the City should offer comparable services and programs in both English and French. The policy states that the quality and level of service of these programs should be equal in both languages. The City recognizes both official languages as having the same rights, status and privileges.

Prior to amalgamation, only four of the 11 municipalities had French recreation programs. The new City of Ottawa moved quickly to ensure francophone residents were being served. Over 16 per cent of the total population stated that French was their first language. Ottawa's rapid growth has meant that the francophone population has spread throughout the City. Although dispersed throughout the City, the majority of francophone residents live east of the Rideau River and north of Leitrim Road. A lower proportion of francophone residents live outside of the Greenbelt, with the exception being east of the Greenbelt. There are now francophone schools and communities in historically anglophone areas such as Barrhaven, Kanata, Nepean and Stittsville.

The City has a well-established variety of service providers, funded groups, associations and private organizations to offer francophone recreation programs to all age groups across the City. Over the last three years, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services has made great strides to increase the number of programs offered in French. We have seen a 33 per cent increase in participation.

While francophone residents have access to programs in their language of choice, a clear direction and policy needs to be developed by Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services in order to better respond to the needs of all French-speaking residents for years to come.

Francophone Services - Key Questions

  1. Should we continue to rely on partnerships to meet the needs of francophone residents?

  2. Should we promote programs that are primarily English in francophone promotional materials (festivals, special events etc.)?

  3. Should we promote programs that are primarily French in anglophone promotional materials (festivals, special events etc.)?

  4. Would a bilingual format for the delivery of some programs or promotions be reasonable?


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General Questions

If there are questions that you feel are important but we did not address, please provide your comments below:

The following information is confidential and will only be used to determine if our process is reaching the residents of Ottawa. We ask that you please fill out as much as you can.

Is this an individual or a group/collective response?


Involvement in Recreation (Please check all that apply)


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White Paper - Tax Support.

White Paper - Accessibility and Inclusion.