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Feature Article - June 2015

2015 State of the Industry

A Look at What's Happening in Recreation, Sports and Fitness Facilities

By Emily Tipping


As the economy continues to bump and grind its way back to a state of normalcy, the results of our annual survey on the State of the Industry continue to show a return to positive growth for managed recreation, sports and fitness facilities. From growing plans for construction and increasing revenues, to a prolonged drop in the number of people planning to reduce staff, to operating budgets that are feeling less of a pinch, things have been gradually brightening over the past couple of years.

Welcome to your ninth annual State of the Industry Report. In these pages, we delve into the detailed responses garnered from our annual survey to help illustrate a more detailed view of the trends that affect facility construction, programming, operations, staffing and much more. The information collected within these 88 pages is based on our in-depth survey of more than 2,300 professionals working in recreation, sports and fitness facilities.

Before we begin, let me take a minute to extend our deep appreciation for everyone who took the time to answer our more than 50 questions about the inner workings of their facilities now, and how they expect to fare over the next several years. We could not put together a report of this scope without your assistance, and we want you to know that your continuing—and growing!—support for this project means the world.

As we do each June, in this issue we'll report the results of this survey to you, summarizing how things are going, beginning with the broader results from the entire survey population. In the following sections, we'll break down some of the results to give a more detailed view based on region of the country, followed by information on aquatic facilities, park districts and departments, colleges and universities, schools and school districts, health clubs and YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs. You'll find even more information in our special web-exclusive reports, which will cover camps, community centers and golf facilities, online at www.recmanagement.com

Who Are You?

The majority of survey respondents, like the readers of Recreation Management magazine, represent leadership within their organizations. Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of respondents said that their job title was "director." Another 20.8 percent are in administration management, which includes titles such as administrator, manager and superintendent. Some 16.4 percent of respondents are operations/facility managers, with titles including operations manager, facility manager, building manager or supervisor. Some 12.3 percent of respondents are in program and activity administration, which includes titles such as activity or program director, manager, coordinator, specialist, coach or instructor. Less than one in 10 (8.6 percent) said they are the chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner of their organization. Just 1 percent of respondents are in service roles, including planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 8.7 percent represent "other" roles.

In addition to being the decision-makers in their organizations, survey respondents also report having more than two decades of experience in the industry. In fact, on average, respondents have 21.3 years of industry experience, and an average of 11.3 years in their current position.

In 2015, survey respondents were more likely to be from the Midwest than any other region. Some 30.7 percent of survey respondents hail from the Midwest, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (See Figure 1.)

The second largest region in terms of representation in the survey was the West, which is home to 20.4 percent of our survey respondents. This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

There was a slight increase in the number of survey respondents representing the South Atlantic states in 2015. Last year, 17 percent of respondents were from the South Atlantic. In 2015, some 18.7 percent of respondents reported from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

The Northeast also saw slightly higher representation in 2015 compared with 2014. Last year, 15.4 percent of respondents were from the Northeast. This year, 17.4 percent of respondents are from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Representation in the South Central states fell from 15.1 percent in 2014 to 12.4 percent in this year's survey. These respondents are from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Finally, just 0.4 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they were from outside the United States.