Three models for successful public petanque courts

Related posts — What to look for when you’re looking for places to play

Lately I’ve been interested in trying to identify “critical success factors” for public petanque courts. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there seem to be three different models of usage for public petanque courts.

The first is the classical village square model, which is where petanque was developed and became popular in France. In this model, the petanque terrain is located in the center of a busy public place — the village square or perhaps a small park. The area is surrounded by businesses, especially restaurants and cafes. Because of the businesses and cafes the area has a lot of foot traffic. People meet there to chat on lunch breaks and after work. Despite being located in the heart of New York City, Bryant Park fits this model. In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising, because the village square model is an essentially urban model. It works because the petanque court is located right in the middle of an area where people live, work, eat, drink, meet, and socialize.

The second model is the rec center model. Many cities or counties have created recreation centers and large recreation parks. The parks typically contain multiple recreation facilities — a rec center for basketball, badminton, and gymnastics classes, a weight room, a swimming pool, one or more baseball diamonds, football fields and soccer fields, tennis courts, perhaps a volleyball court. There are jungle gyms for the younger kids to play on, and shaded benches where moms can sit and chat and watch the younger kids while their older siblings practice team sports. There are water fountains and restrooms. There may be outdoor grills and small shelters with picnic tables, so that the whole extended family can come for a big family Sunday-afternoon grill and picnic.

Above all, there is lots of parking. Where the village square model is an essentially urban model, depending on foot traffic from people who are already in the area, the rec center model is an essentially suburban model, based on the rec center acting as a magnet for people who want to use the recreation facilities that it provides. People aren’t already there. They come to it, sometimes from serious distances, and they come in cars. That’s why parking is an important component of the rec center model. Another important amenity is lighting that can allow afternoon play to continue on into the evening. This can be essential to the survival of some petanque clubs in winter, with winter’s shorter days.

A good example of this model are the petanque courts in the Virginia Highlands Park (photo, above), a vast recreation facility in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.

There is a third model, which I call the amenity model. park_west_petanque_terrain_in_tucson_arizonaDevelopers of housing developments or vacation trailer parks or camp sites sometimes provide petanque courts — well, in the United States, bocce courts — as amenities. Tucked into a quiet corner of the grounds of a high-rise or a mobile-home park or a retirement community or a large camp ground, you will sometimes find a swimming pool, perhaps a shuffleboard court, and perhaps a bocce court. A good example of this model are the petanque courts at Park West Mobile Homes Estates, a retirement community in Tucson, Arizona.

I’m not sure how successful the amenity model is in the USA. There certainly is a scattering of “amenity” bocce courts in this country, but I’m not sure how heavily the courts are actually used (although I understand that petanque courts are popular as amenities at many nudist resorts). But in France, at least judging from the old photos that I’ve seen on the Petanque America website, petanque is a standard part of the standard family vacation in August. Camp grounds often provide a petanque terrain, and when a dedicated terrain is not available, families play on the open dirt fields of the camp ground.

How to approach the Parks&Rec Dept. about support for petanque in your public park

Suppose you’ve decided to approach the Parks and Recreation Department about support for petanque in your local parks.

A wonderful example of a public petanque facility — Paggi Square in Austin, Texas, designed with input from the Heart of Texas Pétanque Club.

The first step in the process should be to develop a clear and detailed idea for the proposal that you want to present to parks&rec department. Write your ideas down in outline form. Eventually, with luck, this outline will be the basis of your proposal document. As you write the outline, ask yourself the kind of probing questions that soon will be put to you. Have you explained clearly what you want, and why, and why you think the parks&rec department should support it?

The first time that you meet with the department’s representative(s), he/she/they will probably never have heard of petanque. Your first meeting will go more smoothly if you have a printed introductory document to give them. It should provide a short executive summary of information about petanque, and about who plays the game and why. The purpose of the introductory document is to provide both information and reassurance… to provide concrete proof that petanque is something real, something that many people actually do play, and something that other cities support by providing facilities in their public parks. A full-color document makes a vivid impression, so (if you don’t own a color printer), copy your document file onto a flash drive and take it to your local graphics company or office-supply store. They can easily print color copies at a reasonable fee.

Your introductory document should be just that, an introductory document. It is not your proposal document. It is only the first step in your relationship with parks&rec so it should be short and easily digested. After introducing the idea of petanque, and support for petanque in public parks, you might continue with a little information about your local club. If you have a handout with information about your club, this will be a good time to bring that out. Eventually, you can lead the conversation around to an informal presentation of your club’s idea for a parks&rec project. Think of this as a casual, low-key, informal presentation of the ideas in your outline. Expect probing questions and perhaps even ideas, suggestions, or proposals for alternate projects. Stay calm, pay close attention to the feedback that you’re getting, and stay flexible.

If your meeting is successful, the next step will probably be for you and your petanque group to prepare a project proposal document for the parks&rec budget and planning committee. That document should quickly summarize basic information about petanque. (You don’t need to repeat all the detail of your introductory document in this document. Just append it to your proposal document.) The rest of your project proposal document should provide details about the specific construction project being proposed — the project’s details, costs, and benefits. In this document it is important to provide evidence that the proposed petanque facilities will actually be used, so presenting information about your club, its strength, membership, and history is important. It is also important to show that your club is committed to the project and prepared to support it. (In New York City, for example, La Boule New Yorkaise committed to offering free weekly petanque instruction at the new terrains in Bryant Park.)

If the proposal is approved by the budget and planning committee, the parks&rec department will issue an RFP (request for proposal). This is basically a request for contractors to bid on the construction of the planned facilities. By its very nature, an RFP must be very specific and detailed about exactly what is to be built. Writing such a document is not something you can leave to amateurs— the parks&rec dept. will have people who are experts in writing RFPs. Your job will be to work with them and provide them as much information and assistance as they need to get it right.

SOME EXAMPLES AND MODELS

Introductory documents

  • Petanque in Public Parks by Stephen Ferg— (pdf) (docx)
    We hereby place this document in the public domain.
  • Pétanque in public parks & places by Philippe Boets— (pdf) (docx)
  • Petanque in Public Places by Gary Hosie — (pdf) (docx)

Proposal documents

  • Proposal for a Petanque Terrain at C.V. Starr Community Center by The Noyo Yoyos Pétanque Club (2010)— (pdf) (docx)

RFP documents

  • RFP for the construction of public petanque courts issued by the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan Parks and Recreation Department (2009)— (pdf)

Is the FPUSA growing?

The FPUSA annual magazine for 2012-2013 has a chart on page 3 (see below) that shows FPUSA membership data for the 9 years 2003-2013. It shows that—

Regarding total FPUSA individual memberships—

  • In the USA there are fewer than 1800 FPUSA members.
  • Between 2003 and 2012, total FPUSA membership increased by about 650 people.

Regarding FPUSA individual membership retention rates and turnover, in that nine-year period—

  • FPUSA recorded a total of almost 3000 (2915) new members.
  • For every player that joined FPUSA and continued as a member, more than three players joined and then dropped out.
  • More players (2261) joined the FPUSA and then dropped out, than the total current membership of the FPUSA (1751).

The chart shows the change in the number of clubs for each year, but not the number of new clubs each year. As a result, we can’t tell anything about the retention rate or turnover at the club level.

For 2008 the change in the number of clubs should be -2, not -1.FPUSA_membership_chart

How to become an FPUSA umpire

I’ve been trying for some time to obtain information on how to become an FPUSA umpire. That information should be easily available on the FPUSA web site, of course, but it is not.

Finally I managed to reach Gilles Karpowics, the FPUSA Sport Director, and he emailed me a copy of a pdf file containing the regulations for becoming an FPUSA umpire. Since this information is not available on the FPUSA web site, I thought I’d make it available HERE.