Recreation is a job well 'Dunn'

Fun and games in Carson City is serious business. The effort to meet the community's recreation needs has become as challenging as ever. Joel Dunn works diligently to make sure those needs are met.

"My responsibilities are to offer recreation sports programs that meet the needs of Carson City adults and youth," Dunn said.

And while Dunn has a desk adjacent to the gym in the Carson City Community Center, don't expect to find him there most of the time. "We're pretty much hands on in all the programs," he said.

Last year, there were 7,000 youths and adults who participated in Carson City recreation programs. That's up to 7,000 people who were doing something productive instead of doing something else less productive - or nothing at all - otherwise.

As Dunn said on any given night four or five programs could be operating in four or five different locations in the community.

Carson City's recreation program offers adult softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer and futsol which uses indoor soccer rules and youth volleyball and basketball.

Dunn's department works with various agencies, including the Carson City School District to use the Carson Middle School and Eagle Valley Middle School gyms and the state of Nevada to use the Stewart Gym along with the community center gym. The past few months have been particularly challenging since Carson Middle School has been going through renovation and has been unavailable. Because of that, a winter volleyball program wasn't offered.

As a result, Eagle Valley has taken on a heavier burden where many competitive adult basketball games have been held. "We've got some good games going," Dunn said.

Since Carson City has several facilities in Centennial, Edmonds and Mills Parks and Governor's Field, Dunn said his program is basically able to meet the community's outdoor recreation needs.

But he said meeting the community's indoor recreation needs is more challenging. While he said his program can basically meet the community's current needs, it's really unable to increase what it offers.

"We'll need to expand all kinds of different programs based on discussed events and needs of the community," Dunn said.

Dunn said his program is also feeling the impact from the growing number of competitive club and traveling teams. He said he could receive from 7-10 requests from these types of programs to use community facilities, but for the most part just can't meet the demand.

A planned recreation center that's a joint effort between the Boys and Girls Club of Western Nevada and the city should help meet the community's needs in the coming years, Dunn said. He said not only would the program be able to expand the sports recreation activities it offers, but non-sports activities as well.

Dunn's department also works with many of the community's volunteer programs such as Little League and the American Youth Soccer Organization. Under Dunn's leadership, Carson City has offered its facilities to host various tournaments operated by other groups. "I really don't want to get into the business of operating tournaments," Dunn said.

The Carson City Convention and Visitor's Bureau also invests in the effort to bring these tournaments to the community.

Carson City will host 42 of these tournaments this year. Among the biggest is the USSSA Midnight Madness softball tournament to be held on Memorial Day weekend. More than 100 teams will play in the tournament which is held for 72 straight hours.

Since 2005 these tournaments have brought in more than $23.2 million and $11.5 million 2007 alone. In 2007 there were more than 42,400 visitors from more than 100 miles away who came to Carson for these tournaments.

But Dunn stressed his biggest responsibility is to meet the recreation needs of residents.

"Our primary concern is offering recreation programs in which everybody has the opportunity to participate regardless of ability," Dunn said.

And Dunn's department will be able to offer a new youth futsol program. There are now 72 adult futsol teams in the community and Dunn said he expects 700 youth to join the futsol program in the next two years.

Whatever program Dunn's department offers, it must pay for itself. In recent years, the recreation department has been operating the concessions at Centennial Park to help pay for the cost of its programs.

Dunn said one of the most gratifying parts of his job has been working with the numerous high school and college students who have worked in his department.

Dunn himself was born and raised in Carson City. He's been married to his wife, Sheri for almost 22 years and his daughter, Kayla currently plays for the Utah State softball team.

He began officiating games when he was 15 and joined the recreation department in 1993. "I wouldn't want to do anything else," Dunn said. "I love what I do."


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