Recreation, Athletics & Tourism
Residents in Webster have access to a wide variety of recreational opportunities, including instructional and organized activities or the self-guided enjoyment of an abundant open space system. Perhaps the most unique aspect of Webster’s recreational system, however, is the history of partnership and cooperation among community stakeholders. For example, the Town and School district partnered on the development of the Webster Aquatic Center. The championship-caliber 50-meter indoor pool supports school, public and private programming that attracts thousands of athletes and over 20,000 visitors annually. Further, the Town, School District and private sports leagues have formed the Webster Youth Sports Council, which seeks to be a model for safety, education, wellness, sportsmanship and the efficient utilization of community facilities.
This data clearly indicate that Webster has sufficient capacity and resources to support a vibrant recreation economy. However, similar to the industrial sector of the community, it lacks a unified vision and strategy to leverage these assets as a force for economic prowess. Parks, open space and sports have never been considered an economic engine of the community. In addition, the community has not even scratched the surface to reveal the full recreational and educational potential of Webster’s open space resources. Yet, all the pieces of the puzzle suggest that recreation tourism and athletics are the key differentiator to attract visitors and support the continued lure of new residents.
Over the past 20 years, the Webster community has invested millions into its parks, open space system, trails and athletics facilities to support and serve traditional youth recreation and sports. However, the cohort ages 5 to 18 is expected to decrease greater than five percent from 2010 to 2019, indicating a decline in young families and the loss of significant purchasing potential in the local economy. Further, the continued maturing of the population will require Webster to broaden the target audience of recreation spending to include established families, empty nesters and active seniors. By 2019, greater than 50 percent of households in Webster will have a householder age 55 or older. Webster will need to balance support for traditional youth sports with quality of life spending on programming, amenities and venues that create authentic experiences for both maturing families and seniors.