Feature Article - June 2011
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State of the Industry 2011

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

By Emily Tipping

Many respondents were concerned that increasing legislation and regulations are affecting their ability to deliver recreation to the community. One said, "Legislative issues seem to be hampering our ability to rationally do our jobs. VGB is a perfect example, as is the new ADA."

Others were more concerned about the current economic debates going on in government at all levels. One reader was concerned about the impact of "…proposals to freeze government spending at current levels for the next five years."

Environmental and conservation concerns also led respondents to muse about budgetary concerns. One respondent worried that as their organization worked toward sustainability, their older facility would be more costly as they tried to keep up with the "green movement."

Another respondent pointed to the effect of environmental concerns as new facilities are developed and existing facilities continue to be used. "As we continue to develop new park locations and facilities, along with maintaining the existing infrastructure we have, we must take into consideration storm water, LEED practices, watershed and many properties that exist along adjacent waterways. Into programming, this same theme overlaps, looking at items like nature and play, outdoor initiative programming, etc."

Accessibility and availability saw an increasing level of concern over last year's response. Last year, 10.3 percent of respondents listed accessibility as a top issue for their facilities, and this year, 13.1 percent labeled it a top concern, likely driven by updates to Access Guidelines as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which may affect how many facilities do business.

Despite the many concerns listed by respondents, the economy continues to be the overarching concern, as evidenced by many respondents' comments. Many of their concerns reached beyond simple budgeting to the way people think about recreation in general.

One respondent was concerned about "the economy and a new philosophy that government shouldn't be in the business of providing parks and recreation programs, after-school programs and senior nutrition/transportation programs." This respondent stated that this philosophy would lead to cutbacks in programs that are effective in keeping high-risk youth out of gangs.

Another respondent pointed to the importance of "ensuring the public recognizes the importance of park and recreation opportunities as a quality-of-life component and valued service for the area in which they choose to live, work and play."