October 24, 2008 By Andy Opsahl
Many parents can relate to the demands of driving kids back and forth across town for recreational sports. However, that's less of a problem for parents in Cary, N.C. Players in leagues for ages 6 to 10 consistently attend practices near their homes, thanks to a GIS application created by Leith Britt, GIS analyst for the Cary Technology Services Department.
Before 2003, the Cary Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department (PRCR) assigned kids to sports teams without regard to location. Teams usually had rotating practice sites so players could take turns practicing near their homes. But parent complaints about long drives to practices escalated as Cary's population grew and traffic thickened. The town is currently home to 130,000 residents.
Britt programmed GIS layers over a map of the town using ESRI's ArcGIS Server and Pitney Bowes' MapInfo Professional, identifying clusters of kids living near each other that could form teams. The application assigned those teams to nearby practice locations. Cary doesn't use GIS to assign teams for ages beyond 10 because competitive tryouts become critical to placement at that point. Britt said the PRCR hadn't measured attendance patterns since implementing the project, but the agency frequently receives anecdotal reports of growing player attendance from coaches.
"It's all about using technology to better create the leagues in order for parents to spend less time on the road and less money on gas, and for the kids to be able to play with their buddies," Britt said.
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