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Mansfield Magazine

Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation Awarded the 2017 Gold Medal Award from the NRPA

Oct 05, 2017 04:10PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Courtesy of the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation Department's Facebook page.

As September 2017 came to a close, the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation Department was awarded the 2017 Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

The Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation Department was also awarded the highest designation a parks and recreation department could receive -- being designated as a certified agency by the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA).

We wanted to learn more about this exciting accreditation and award, so we reached out to Rick Herold, the Parks, Arts & Recreation Department Director. He filled us in on all the details, as well as what we can expect from the award-winning department in the future. 

I heard that the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation was recently awarded a gold medal, congratulations! How has that been? 

We were extremely proud to win the NRPA Gold Medal (Class II-Population from 150,001 to 400,000). Great honor for our entire city and it further demonstrates that our citizens are engaged in the provision of parks and recreation services in Grand Prairie.
 

What are some notable reasons for winning this award? 

Most notably the citizens continuing to support sales tax elections for parks and recreation. ¼ cent sales tax in perpetuity was passed 18 years ago exclusively for parks and recreation.   Since then, the community has passed 1/8 sales tax for The Summit, America’s first baby boomer facility, 1/8 cent sales tax for a minor-league baseball stadium. Those 1/8 cent sales taxes were paid off nearly 20 years early, and we combined them for a ¼ cent sales tax which provided funding for Epic Waters and The Epic, both of which will open in the next few months.
 
In addition, the Gold Medal confirms that we follow the three pillars of our National Recreation and Parks Association: Health and Wellness, Social Equity, and Conservation. Our programming and camps always evolve around those benchmarks.
 

What was the award ceremony like? Was this award expected? 

We were shocked! We were by far the smallest city in our category.

The awards are given at the Opening Ceremonies of the NRPA National Convention, which was in New Orleans, so thousands of people were in attendance. When Grand Prairie’s name was called, our 20 person delegation went crazy. And, the Opening Ceremonies are simulcast live across the world, so we had a breakfast at our 
Uptown Theater and 125 staff, city leaders, and partners watched in live…. and they went crazy as well.
 

What was the most memorable moment of the evening?  

I had fallen ill and couldn’t travel to New Orleans, so I was at the Uptown Theater breakfast back home. Watching the faces of our rank and file employees was a bigger thrill for me. We believe “It Starts in Parks” and we owe so much to our park guys and gals who keep our parks clean, safe, and attractive. That moment was my highlight for sure.

And, of course, the Mayor was so excited for everyone.
 

What can we expect from the Grand Prairie Parks, Arts & Recreation in the future?  

We will open Epic Waters in the next few months. This facility includes many American firsts, including: The Tallest indoor water ride in America, the longest indoor lazy river in America, the most comprehensive slide package in America, and we are capable of being open 365 days a year!  We are quite excited. 

Right after that we open ‘The Epic.” We simply say it is “Reimagining the American Recreation Center.” We say that because it is, despite incredible athletic and fitness components, including $1,000,000 dollars of fitness equipment, it has a theater, professional recording studio, culinary teaching theater, and artist-in-residence loft, among others.  It will open in February 2018.

**(Learn more about Epic Waters and The Epic in one of our articles here.)**
 
We will open the Grand Lawn Amphitheater in March of 2018, which will be capable of having 3,500 spectators in a stunning outdoor setting. It will have vip and suites available for large shows.
 
And, finally in late summer 2018, we will open PlayGrand Adventures, a twelve-acre all-inclusive park for people with all abilities! It will be the emotional anchor for this project.
 

Anything else we should know about the department? 

We also received the CAPRA Certification in New Orleans. Only about 200 cities in America have earned this designation, which was in the works for 2 years. It displays that we follow national standards in all areas of parks and recreation management.

Grand Prairie NRPA Gold Medal Finalist

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