Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Recreation and Sport Management

Major Professor

Steven N. Waller

Committee Members

Sylvia Trendafilova, Angela Wozencroft


Sustainability practices produce programs and services that meet current needs while preserving the environment and natural resources for the future. City parks and recreation departments are facing budget shortfalls and increasing expectations from customers. Governments are now embracing sustainability practices to create financial savings while also fostering relations with customers.

The purpose of this single case study was twofold: (1) to examine the effectiveness of one city department’s strategies in outsourcing its environmental sustainability program through a performance contract with Ameresco; and (2) to examine the perceptions of key department employees about the effectiveness of the sustainability initiative. A snowball sample of 14 employees, stratified by employee class (upper administrative, middle management and, line staff) was drawn from the City of Knoxville, Tennessee’s parks and recreation department. Qualitative data generated from semi-structured interviews was coded and thematized to analyze the perceptions of the employees included in the sample about the agency’s sustainability practices. Additionally, financial archival data from utility bills (N = 96) were analyzed over the implementation phase of the contract to determine if cost savings were realized.

Key findings of the study included: (1) financial savings were realized across key operating areas as a result of the contract with Ameresco; (2) employees identified positive feelings towards investment in environmental initiatives; (3) sustainability can be obtained through the implementation of an environmental sustainability performance contract; and (4) sustainable practices can further increase efficiency of facilities operation. The results of this study may be generalized to cities of similar size and governmental structure.

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