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Parks and Rec fee increases postponed (again) due to computer upgrade delay

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For the second time since announcing its new membership-fee structure, Denver Parks and Recreation has delayed the implementation. Most recently scheduled to debut October 1, the mostly more expensive fees are now slated to roll out January 1, 2012. Why? The department reports that its new computer system isn't ready to handle the changes.

That may sound familiar. The new fees were originally supposed to kick in on September 1. But in mid-August, Parks and Rec announced it was pushing back the implementation to October 1 in order to ready a new software system that would better track usage of the city's 27 rec centers.

Now, however, it appears that the system upgrade is taking longer than expected. According to Parks and Rec, the city's software vendor recently informed the department that it would need more time "to fully implement, train and test the revised programs."

"I think September 1 was an optimistic goal," says Parks and Rec spokeswoman Kathy Maloney Green. When the department announced it, she says, "we hadn't mapped out the technology piece and I don't think our vendor had a full understanding about exactly what was encompassed in the membership packages. We offer scholarships and different discounts.To put all of that together, it's not a standard package. It's so customizable that we need a bit more time to get it mapped out."

So what does that mean for members? Cheaper fees, for one -- and a three-month reprieve from the tough decision about whether to stick with the rec centers or jump ship to the likes of 24 Hour Fitness. Come January 1, Parks and Rec members will no longer be able to pay a flat fee to use all 27 rec centers. Instead, users will buy a pass for one of three tiers: neighborhood (small centers), local (medium-sized) and regional (fully loaded).

Adults ages 25 to 64 will pay $190 per year for neighborhood centers, $249 for local centers and $369 for regional centers. (Children and seniors will pay less.) For most adults, that's much more than they pay now. Currently, adult memberships are sold in three-month ($52), six-month ($100) and annual ($190) increments.

In making the announcement about the delay, Parks and Rec took the opportunity to tout other changes that will come with the increased fees, including longer rec center hours, automatic monthly payment withdrawal and special prices for young adults and families.

There's a consolation prize, too: From October 1 through December 31, Parks and Rec is offering a deal for 50 percent off a three-month membership until the new fee structure (and computer system) kicks in. Maloney Green hopes the deal -- $26 for three months -- will help draw new members and keep current ones.

"We're very optimistic," she says. "We feel the benefits of our programming and our recreation centers will keep our patrons happy." Will she be proven right? Stay tuned.

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