Wilmette Park District officials believe a new gift card program will provide patrons with an easy way to pay for everything from tennis lessons and ice skating time to summer camp registrations.
The program has been rolled out at all Park District locations within the past month and is already proving popular, district Director Steve Wilson said Tuesday.
“We think they make great gifts for an out-of-town grandparent who wants to buy their grandchild some lessons, and we’ve already gotten calls from people who are looking to do just that,” he said.
It isn’t the first time the district has offered gift cards, he told park commissioners Monday, but it is the first time one card program will be available districtwide.
Cards have previously been available at the golf course, and Park District users have also been able to buy paper gift certificates at various locations, “so we are certainly familiar with the concept,” he said.
The new cards are designed for broader use. They are integrated with the district’s computerized registration system, Wilson said, and they allow people to pay for all kinds of park services, either online or in person. The lone exception is for concession operations that outside contractors run.
Cards can also be “reloaded,” either by district staff, or online by the card holders, he said: “They’re almost like debit cards, specifically for the Park District.”
Park officials have considered instituting the program more than once over the past three or four years, Wilson said; setting it up took less than six months to complete, largely because the district already owns the software program that allows use of the cards. The only new cost was making the cards themselves, he said, “and that came out to less than $1 a card” for an initial run of 1,000.
Board president James Brault asked Monday if the cards could eventually be integrated into the system that handles photo identification cards.
Wilson said other park districts have tried merging systems, “but it’s never worked as well as people have hoped for.”