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


Facility Usage & Memberships

There was virtually no change from 2012 to 2013 in the number of respondents who charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. Nearly three out of five (59.4 percent) respondents indicate that they do charge a fee, while 40.6 percent indicate they do not. (See Figure 13.)

Respondents from private nonprofit organizations were the most likely to charge a membership or usage fee, followed by private for-profit organizations. Some 68.9 percent of respondents from private nonprofit organizations said they charge such a fee, while 62.3 percent of private for-profit facilities do so. Public organizations were least likely to charge a fee, though 56 percent indicated they do so.

When it comes to facility type, YMCAs are the most likely to charge a fee for membership or usage, with 96.6 percent of respondents from these facilities indicating they do so. They were followed by health clubs (95.3 percent) and community or private sports and recreation centers (72.8 percent). Less than two-thirds (62.6 percent) of parks respondents charge a fee, and more than half of colleges (56.4 percent) and camps (55 percent) do so. Schools were least likely to charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities, with less than a quarter (23.6 percent) of these respondents indicating they do so.

The number of respondents who expect to increase their fees is growing slightly over time, from 31.2 percent who reported such an increase from 2011 to 2012, to 39.2 percent who expect such an increase from 2013 to 2014. (See Figure 14.) That said, fees are relatively stable over time, with more than six in 10 respondents indicating that fees will remain the same from 2012 through 2014. More than two-thirds (66.9 percent) said there was no change in fees from 2011 to 2012, while 64.5 percent said there will be no change in 2013, and 60.2 percent said there will be no change in 2014. Very few respondents indicated their fees will be decreasing.

More than half of respondents expect the number of people using their facilities to increase in every year covered by the survey. Past surveys showed similar results. At the same time, a falling number of respondents expect to see a decrease over time in the number of people using their facilities. (See Figure 15.)

The 2012 Industry Report showed that 51.6 percent of respondents saw an increase in usage from 2010 to 2011. This year, 52.7 percent reported an increase from 2011 to 2012. More than half also expect further increases in 2013 (54.4 percent) and 2014 (52.4 percent).

At the same time, the number of respondents expecting to see usage drop at their facilities is falling over time, from 13.9 percent who reported a decrease from 2009 to 2010, to 11.2 percent reporting a decrease from 2010 to 2011, to 9.8 percent reporting a decrease from 2011 to 2012. Looking forward, less than 5 percent expect a decrease in 2013 (4.6 percent) and in 2014 (3.2 percent).

Respondents from private for-profit organizations tend to be most optimistic about membership growth looking ahead. While 53.8 percent of private for-profit organizations reported an increase in the number of people using their facilities from 2011 to 2012, 57.3 percent expect an increase in 2013 and 63 percent expect an increase in 2014. Private nonprofit organizations were also relatively positive about membership growth, with 53 percent reporting an increase in 2012, and more than 57 percent expecting further increases in 2013 (57.6 percent) and 2014 (57.2 percent). Among public organizations, 52.9 percent reported an increase in usage from 2011 to 2012, while 53.4 percent expect an increase in 2013 and less than half (49.5 percent) expect an increase in 2014.

Respondents from health clubs are typically the most optimistic about membership growth in most years of our Industry Report, and this year is no exception. Interestingly, though, there is generally a decrease in the percentage of these respondents who actually see the increases they project, from one year to the next. Thus, while 58.8 percent of health club respondents in 2012 projected that their memberships would increase from 2011 to 2012, in actuality, just 50.8 percent of 2013 respondents reported such an increase, while 15.9 percent actually reported a decrease in memberships. Health club respondents in 2013 continue to be the most optimistic about membership growth, with a full 70.5 percent expecting to see an increase from 2012 to 2013, and 69.6 percent projecting an increase in 2014. They were followed by respondents from YMCAs, where more than two-thirds project increases in 2013 (67.8 percent) and 2014 (67 percent). Usage at schools and school districts tends to be the most stable over time. Less than half of school respondents expect increases in 2013 (42.6 percent) and 2014 (38.7 percent).