Feature Article - June 2016
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2016 State of the Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


Respondents from YMCAs, health clubs and schools are the most likely to require certification of staff members, both now and in the future. Some 98.3 percent of YMCAs said they currently require certifications, and the same number will continue to require them in the future. They were followed by health clubs, where 95.3 percent currently require certifications and will continue to do so. Finally, 87.8 percent of school respondents said they currently require certification, and 89.6 percent will require it in the future. (See Figure 22.)

A majority of respondents that require certification of any kind require certification in CPR/AED/ First Aid, as well as a background check. (See Figure 23.) Some 88.9 percent of these respondents said they require CPR/AED/First Aid certification, and 84 percent require a background check. More than half (59.9 percent) require a lifeguard certification, and more than a third (35.9 percent) require aquatic management and pool operations certification. More than a quarter require personal training/fitness certification (29.5 percent), food service certification (26.8 percent) or pesticide application certification (25.8 percent).

Respondents from facilities that include aquatic elements are more likely to require lifeguard and aquatic management certifications. While 59.9 percent of all respondents who require certification ask that some staff members achieve lifeguard certification, for those with aquatic elements, that number jumps to 86.4 percent. And while 35.9 percent of all respondents require aquatic management/pool operations certifications, 56 percent of those with aquatics require this type of certification.

Just as they were most likely to require certification at all, YMCAs were the most likely to require many specific types of certification. YMCA respondents were more likely than others to require CPR/AED/First Aid certification (97.4 percent); background checks (94.7 percent); lifeguard certification (83.3 percent); aquatic management and pool operations certification (49.1 percent); and childcare/early childhood education certification (53.5 percent).

Respondents from health clubs were more likely than others to require personal training or fitness certification (77 percent); and athletic trainer certifications (39.3 percent).

Respondents from camps were the most likely to require foodservice certifications (55.6 percent); and climbing certifications (40.7 percent).

Respondents from parks were most likely to require pesticide application certification (41.9 percent); playground safety certification (35.6 percent); turf/grounds management certification (14.2 percent); Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP) certification (21.1 percent); and security or law enforcement certification (8.6 percent).

Finally, respondents from schools were more likely than others to require coaching certification (70.1 percent) and teaching certifications (67 percent).

Facilities & Construction Plans

Beginning in 2013, we have asked survey participants how old their main facility is. In that time, facilities have aged from an average of 27.5 years in 2013 to 32.6 years in 2016. Only 6.6 percent of respondents said their main facility was 5 years old or less. Another 21.4 percent said their facilities were between 11 and 20 years old. Some 29.2 percent said their main facility was between 21 and 40 years old. A full 31.7 percent of respondents have facilities that are at least 41 years old. And 15.6 percent of all respondents said their main facility is 50 years old or older.

The newest facilities, on average, are found among colleges and universities, as well as health clubs. Respondents from colleges and universities said their main facility is 25.4 years old on average, while for health clubs, facilities average 25.5 years. (See Figure 24.)

The oldest facilities are found among camp respondents, who report that the average age of their main facility is 56 years old. They were followed by YMCAs, with an average facility age of 35.7 years, and schools and school districts, which averaged 32.6 years.

Considering the aging nature of the facilities covered in this report, it should come as no surprise that an increasing number of respondents are considering construction, whether that means building new facilities, or making additions or renovations to existing facilities. In fact, since 2013, the percentage of respondents who have any construction plans has grown from 62.7 percent to 66.4 percent. (See Figure 25.)

The number of respondents with plans to build new facilities grew this year from 25.7 percent in 2015 to 26.4 percent in 2016. Likewise, the number who are planning to renovate existing facilities increased, from 46.9 percent to 47.6 percent. There was a slight decrease in the number of respondents with plans to make additions, from 29.8 percent to 28.6 percent.

Given that they have the oldest facilities on average, it should come as no surprise that camp respondents are the most likely to report that they have plans for construction. More than eight out of 10 (81.2 percent) of camp respondents said they had plans for construction. They were followed by parks respondents (74.7 percent of whom have construction plans) and community recreation centers (68.1 percent).