In one N.C. town, geospatial analysis is a hit with rec-league baseball teams
For many, the mere mention of baseball spring training brings to mind the many traditions of the game, from the seventh-inning stretch to hot dogs, peanuts and adult beverages. When recreation baseball, softball and tee-ball leagues start up this spring in Cary, N.C., town administrators will be carrying on another tradition that has become an important part of the fabric of the game there: using geographic information system (GIS) technology to assign players and coaches to teams.
In Cary, a Raleigh-area community of 127,000 residents (considered a town by North Carolina’s definition), town officials use location-intelligence and digital-mapping software to ensure that neighbors play on the same team, teammates practice close to home and coaches live near their players.
With fuel costs on the rise in recent years, the town’s use of Pitney Bowes MapInfo Professional GIS software to make strategic geographic assignments – instead of using pen and paper to randomly assign players – has been a home run with residents who participate in recreation-league basketball, baseball, softball and tee ball.
“Awhile back, a coach told us that he felt like he had better participation since we implemented this, because kids are able to carpool and live closer to the field that they play on,” Leith Britt, GIS/database analyst for the town’s Technology Services Department, told GovPro.com. “Ninety to 95 percent of the feedback we get from residents has been positive.”
Britt, along with Mike Mull, applications manager for the town’s Technology Services Department, works behind the scenes to ensure that rec-league team assignments in a town measuring 54 square miles make geographic sense for players, coaches and parents. Here’s how they do it:
- Residents register for rec-league sports and other Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department programs via the town’s Web site, by mail, by phone or on a walk-in basis.
- Players are pulled from a database into MapInfo Professional and from there get geo-coded based on three zones – the North, West and South areas of Cary – age and gender.
- Once plotted on a map, Britt looks for clusters in certain areas to assign the teams. When determining the team, Britt examines the digital map to ensure that each team is balanced in regard to ages and gender and that any special requests are considered.
While Britt and Mull sing the praises of the software’s ability to empower them to create team rosters that make players, coaches and parents happy, Mull admitted that “judgment and human intervention” sometimes are required to finalize a roster.
“The computer doesn’t tell you everything,” Mull explained to GovPro.com. “We usually work with the person in charge of that particular program – whether it’s co-ed basketball or tee ball; they know their league – to help them make a more informed decision.”
Britt also admitted that the town’s use of GIS technology hasn’t reduced the man-hours involved in putting together team rosters. If anything, Britt said, “we are spending a couple extra hours doing this.”
But it’s worth it, he added.
“If residents are able to carpool, or if they can go to a field or gym that’s a few miles from their house versus 15 miles, it may not be saving me time, but we’re providing a better service and a better quality of life to our citizens,” Britt told GovPro.com.
When asked about the ROI of the MapInfo Professional software, Britt replied that the town has cost-saving initiatives in place in other areas, but “for this particular application, it’s strictly for the kids and citizens.”
Interactive Web page provides crime statistics
The Town of Cary prides itself on being one of the safest communities in the United States, statistically speaking. With the recent launch of an interactive crime statistics page on the town’s Web site, Cary also prides itself on the information services provided to its residents.
Powered by Pitney Bowes MapInfo MapXtreme software, the online crime map enables citizens to instantly view the types and locations of crimes that have occurred across the entire town. Cary developed the crime map, which is located on the town’s Maps Online Web page, to reduce the time spent filling crime-map requests and to offer crime-data requests in real time.
The interactive Web page enables visitors to enter a specific address and request information on crimes occurring within the past year and within up to a one-mile radius from the requested address. The virtual map then displays unique icons for each of the 21 different types of crimes documented, including categories such as burglaries, larcenies and motor vehicle thefts.
The site also allows users to search crime statistics for specific dates within the last month, three months, six months and up to a year, helping people moving into Cary to quickly identify the safest neighborhoods.
“Prior to rolling out our crime-map section on Maps Online, requests for reports went directly to the Cary Police Department clerks,” Mull said. “With Pitney Bowes MapInfo location intelligence solutions, we can consolidate crime data into an easy-to-understand digital map of crime statistics that is accessible to users around the clock. With real-time access, users can become informed citizens and even take an active role in the town’s crime prevention.”
In addition to the crime-map application, residents can use Cary’s Maps Online page to stay abreast of new development in the town, find nearby parks and identify their voting districts, among other services.