Researchers work with City Hall to develop local solutions to promote sport and recreation for all

Teacher
Aurel Vlaicu University of Arad, RO

Researchers work with City Hall to develop local solutions to promote sport and recreation for all

University faculty proposes local community sports facilities to combat physical inactivity in Arad, Romania

Aurel Vlaicu University through the Physical Education and Sport Faculty are involved in improving the recreational sports infrastructure for all the citizens in the city of Arad, Romania.

Statistics from the Romanian National Institute of Statistic (2015) show there is a high incidence of cardiovascular disease (667/100,000 inhabitants) in Romania. Only 6 out of 100 people from urban areas exercise to meet guidelines and 60% of the population do not practice sport. Locally, Arad occupies 4th place in the country on the prevalence of obesity (12.824/100.000 inhabitants).

Financing infrastructure projects to address the health and inactivity crisis can be difficult. An innovative financing solution is one provided by the Arad City Hall through the Participatory Budgeting Programme. Participatory budgeting aims to involve the citizens in a democratic process of deliberation and decision to establish the optimal way to spend part of the local budget. The process involves citizens taking the role of an active participant in defining and addressing the issues of the community to which they belong.

Arad City Hall proposed seven areas of interest and these are presented in the table below. Citizens aged 18 and older who live, work or study in Arad can participate in the participatory budgeting process.

Interest area
Theme
Urban regeneration – Mobility, accessibility and traffic safety
Safe parking for bicycles and strollers
Urban regeneration – Green spaces
Squares and land available for regeneration
Urban regeneration – Playgrounds
Land available for the construction of playgrounds / Qualitative improvement of existing playgrounds
Arranging recreation spaces
Skate park design
Arranging recreation spaces
Building a park for outdoor sports and exercise (outdoor fitness equipment)
Arrangement of public spaces
Cathedral Square
Cultural and educational infrastructure
Unconventional art – we invite street artists to identify spaces that can come to life and especially using colour

Staff of the Physical Education and Sport Faculty submitted two projects to be built near the university:

  1. Building an outdoor fitness park for pupils, students and the local community. We hope this will be equipped with urban fitness equipment to allow users to strengthen different muscle groups. The project would have an estimated value of 40,000 euros.
  2. Construction of two multisport gaming fields on a green space near some blocks of flats, being able to serve the citizens of the area but also the students of the university located nearby. The fields would support basketball, handball and football in one field and volleyball, tennis and badminton in the other. This project would have an estimated value of 100,000 euros.

Our projects took the maximum number of votes in our category of Arranging Recreation Spaces in the 2019 Participatory Budgeting Programme. Unfortunately this work is currently on pause due to the appearance of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the development of another investment for the construction of a recreational space in a degraded area nearby, through a European project. We hope that proposals will be financed and implemented by the Arad City Hall in the near future.

Important EU-funded work in children’s physical fitness and motor skill levels in Hungary, Slovakia and Romania highlight why more recreation spaces are needed for residents of any urban area. Our projects for sports and recreation would be an excellent space to be able to address and improve the fitness results obtained in the tests administered, given that the hours of physical education in school often are not enough for children to be active sufficiently.

Through this work we want to show how the Physical Education and Sport Faculty can be an important actor in promoting an active and healthy life in the local community. In the city of Arad there are very few parks of this kind. We feel that the Physical Education and Sport Faculty coming with support in terms of know-how will be of added value.

Take home messages:

  • A Participatory Budgeting Programme in Arad Romania allows citizens to vote on how budgets are spent.
  • Play and recreation proposals put forward by the Physical Education and Sport Faculty secured many votes through the scheme.
  • Once building starts, residents can practice the sport and be active close to home, outside, in a favorable environment and for free.

Viorel Ardelean

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