Feature Article - June 2013
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2013 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


The biggest drops in operating expenses were found among community sports and recreation centers, which saw their average operating expenditure fall 16.4 percent from $1,266,000 in fiscal 2011 to $1,058,000 in fiscal 2012. They were followed by colleges, which reported a drop of 15 percent. Less dramatic decreases were seen among YMCAs (whose operating expenditures fell by 7 percent), health clubs (2.8 percent) and parks (2.3 percent). Schools actually reported an increase of 16.6 percent in their operating expenditures from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012, and camps reported an 8.7 percent increase. (See Figure 11.)

Between 2012 and 2014, respondents from health clubs, community centers and YMCAs are expecting to see the greatest increases in their operating expenses. Health club respondents project a 9.8 percent increase from $1,162,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,276,000 in fiscal 2014, while community centers expect an increase of 8.7 percent and YMCAs project an 8 percent increase. Slighter increases are expected among camps (4.1 percent), colleges and universities (3.7 percent) and parks (2.8 percent). Respondents from schools and school districts project a decrease of 3 percent in their operating expenditures in that time period, from $1,519,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,474,000 in fiscal 2014.

When it comes to organization type, while public organizations reported the highest average operating expenditures (3.2 percent higher than the across-the-board average for fiscal 2012 at $1,503,000), they are expecting the smallest increases in their operating expenditures between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2014. (This is likely largely driven by the decreases expected among schools and school districts). Public organizations projected an increase of 1.9 percent in their average operating expenditure from fiscal 2012 to $1,532,000 in fiscal 2014. The greatest increases were projected among private for-profit organizations, who are expecting an increase of 17.1 percent from $1,176,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,377,000 in fiscal 2014. Private nonprofits fall in the middle with a 6.3 percent increase from an average operating expenditure of $1,434,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,524,000 in fiscal 2014.

A majority of respondents indicated that they had taken some action to reduce their expenditures. Some 86.3 percent have undertaken measures to reduce their costs. The most common method employed was improving energy efficiency. Some 55 percent of respondents indicated they had done so. More than two out of five indicated they had increased their fees (43.6 percent) or reduced their staffing levels (43.1 percent). Around a third (33.2 percent) said they had put construction or renovation plans on hold, while more than a quarter (26.5 percent) had cut programming or services. (See Figure 12.)

Public organizations were most likely to have taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 87.5 percent of them had done so, compared with 85.1 percent of private nonprofits and 84.1 percent of private for-profit organizations.

Public organizations were slightly more likely than others to have improved energy efficiency (55.4 percent) and reduced staffing levels (45.9%), but were far more likely than others to have cut programming or services (31.5%), reduced their hours of operation (27%), shortened their season of operation (12.4%) or closed facilities altogether (8.9%). By comparison, among private for-profit facilities (where, admittedly, these measures would tend to be counterproductive), those numbers stand at: 13 percent (cut programs and services), 15.4 percent (reduced hours), 5.3 percent (shortened season), 2.4 percent (closed facilities).

When it comes to facility types, respondents from YMCAs were most likely to have taken action to reduce their operating expenditures. Some 94.8 percent indicated they had done so. They were followed by camps (93.7 percent), health clubs (90.5 percent), and parks (89 percent). Respondents from parks were most likely to indicate that they had reduced staffing, put construction plans on hold, reduced hours of operation or closed facilities. Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to have improved their facilities' energy efficiency. Respondents from camps were most likely to have increased fees. And respondents from schools were most likely to have cut programs or services.