Feature Article - June 2015
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2015 State of the Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


From fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014, respondents from schools, colleges and camps reported the greatest increases in average operating expenditures. At the same time, respondents from health clubs, community centers and YMCAs all reported decreases. Schools reported the greatest increase—a 39.1 percent jump from an average of $1,229,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,710,000 in fiscal 2014. They were followed by colleges, with a 36.6 percent increase, and camps with a 31 percent increase. Increases to average operating expenditures were also reported by parks respondents, who saw a 28.8 percent increase from $1,537,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,980,000 in 2014. (See Figure 12.)


Health clubs reported the greatest overall decrease—with a 26.2 percent drop from $1,302,000 in fiscal 2013 to $961,000 in fiscal 2014. They were followed by community centers, with a 14.5 percent decrease and YMCAs with a 1.3 percent decrease.

Looking forward, camp respondents reported the greatest increase to average operating expenditures between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2016, with a 14.2 percent increase from $1,229,000 to $1,404,000. They were followed by community center respondents, who reported a 9.7 percent increase, and college respondents, with a 9.1 percent increase. The smallest increases in that time period were projected by school respondents, with a 1.5 percent jump from $1,710,000 to $1,735,000; and parks respondents, who reported a 2.8 percent increase from $1,980,000 in fiscal 2014 to $2,035,000 in fiscal 2016.

A majority of respondents indicated that they had taken actions to reduce expenditures at their facilities within the past year. Some 84.2 percent of respondents said they had done so, up from 83.5 percent in 2014. (See Figure 13.)

The most common measures used to decrease operating expenditures were improving energy efficiency (53.3 percent of respondents had done so); increasing fees (42.1 percent); reducing staffing levels (35.5 percent); and putting construction or renovation plans on hold (30.2 percent). Nearly one-fifth also reported that they had cut programming or services (18.5 percent) or reduced their hours of operation (18.4 percent). Less common measures included shortening the season of operation (8.6 percent) and closing facilities (6.1 percent).

Respondents from suburban communities were the most likely to report that they had taken actions to reduce operating expenditures within the past year. Some 85.6 percent of suburban respondents indicated they had done so, compared with 52.9 percent of rural respondents and 50.8 percent of urban respondents.

Suburban respondents were also those most likely to have taken the three most common actions used to reduce expenditures. Some 54.7 percent said they had improved energy efficiency, 46.8 percent had increased fees, and 36.6 percent had reduced staffing levels. Rural respondents were more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to have put construction or renovation plans on hold (34 percent of rural respondents had done so); shortened the season of operation (9.9 percent) or closed facilities (7.7 percent). Urban respondents were more likely than other community types to report that they had reduced their hours of operation (20.2 percent) or cut programming or services (18.6 percent.)

Respondents from camps, health clubs and YMCAs were more likely than other types of respondents to report that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 89 percent of camp respondents, 88.7 percent of health club respondents and 88.1 percent of YMCA respondents said they had done so. Those from colleges and community centers were the least likely to have taken action to reduce expenditures, though a majority indicated they had done so. Some 78.7 percent of college respondents and 78.6 percent of community center respondents said they had taken action to reduce expenditures.

Health club respondents were more likely than others to report that they had taken measures to improve energy efficiency. Some 57.7 percent of health club respondents had done so. Camp respondents were the most likely to report that they had increased fees (59.3 percent) or put construction and renovation plans on hold (38.4 percent). YMCA respondents were the most likely to report that they had reduced staff (49.3 percent) or cut programming and services (23.1 percent). Parks respondents were the most likely to indicate that they had reduced their hours of operation (22.3 percent) or shortened their season of operation (13.3 percent). Finally, school respondents were the most likely to report that they had closed facilities (7.7 percent).