Feature Article - June 2010
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A Look at Trends in Parks & Recreation

Growing and Building

Despite the challenging budgetary situation in cities across the country, a majority of parks respondents said they are planning construction of some kind in the next three years. Nearly two-thirds (63.7 percent) said they had plans to build, with renovations to existing facilities being the most common plan. This is a slight decrease from last year, when 66.7 percent had construction plans in place. Nearly half (46.7 percent) of parks respondents had plans to renovate. (See Figure 44.) This number is unchanged from 2009. Fewer respondents this year were planning to build new facilities (29.1 percent vs. 34.6 percent in 2009) or make additions to their existing facilities (27.2 percent vs. 31.2 percent in 2009).

Those parks respondents who are planning to construct new facilities, additions or renovations over the next three years are planning to spend, on average, $3,907,000 on that construction. This amount is 12.4 percent less than the across-the-board average, and 11.4 percent less than parks respondents in the 2009 survey were planning to spend.

Parks differed greatly from the across-the-board numbers in terms of the features they were most likely to include in their facilities. The top features currently included among parks and recreation respondents' facilities include:

  1. Playgrounds (included by 84.7 percent of parks respondents who had features of any kind)
  2. Park structures, such as shelters, restrooms buildings, etc. (83.8 percent)
  3. Open spaces, including gardens, natural areas, etc. (73.9 percent)
  4. Outdoor sports courts, such as basketball, tennis, etc. (73.1 percent)
  5. Trails (72.1 percent)
  6. Bleachers and seating (71.1 percent)
  7. Natural turf sports fields, for baseball, soccer, etc. (69.6 percent)
  8. Concession areas (68.9 percent)
  9. Classrooms and meeting rooms (63.1 percent)
  10. Community or multipurpose center (57.8 percent)

When it comes to adding more features over the next three years), the top choices among parks respondents included: splash play areas (in the works for 28.8 percent of parks respondents with plans to add more features to their facilities); park structures (28.8 percent); dog parks (28.1 percent); trails (27.7 percent); playgrounds (26.6 percent); open spaces (21 percent); natural turf sports fields (18.8 percent); bleachers and seating (17.6 percent); and skateparks (17.4 percent).

Splash Play

Splash play areas are still growing in popularity across the country. They are the most commonly planned addition among parks and recreation respondents. Other respondents, including camp facilities, community centers and YMCAs, also are among those most likely to be planning to add splash play areas over the next three years.

Installed over zero-depth pads, splash play features allow facility owners and directors to provide a place to get some fun in the sun and water without having to hire staff to keep a constant watch over the facility (though regular maintenance is necessary).

Among survey respondents, those from hot, southerly regions were most likely to indicate that they had plans to add a splash play area in the next several years. In the South Central states, which include Texas, 31.2 percent of those with plans to add features to their facilities are planning to add splash play areas.