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Feature Article - June 2016

2016 State of the Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


Facility Usage & Membership

The percentage of respondents who charge a fee for membership or for using their facilities tends to hold steady year-over-year, generally falling between 55 and 60 percent. Over the past three years, this number has climbed slightly, from 55.7 percent in 2014 to 58.4 percent in 2015, and 59.7 percent in 2016. Some 40.3 percent of respondents do not change a membership or usage fee. (See Figure 16.)

Respondents from YMCAs, health clubs and community recreation centers were the most likely to charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. Some 93.1 percent of YMCA respondents, 90.6 percent of health club respondents and 69.3 percent of community center respondents said they charge a fee for usage of their facilities.

Conversely, schools, camps and parks were the most likely to report that they do not charge a fee for usage of their facilities. In fact, more than three-quarters (78.7 percent) of school respondents said they do not charge a membership/usage fee. They were followed by camp respondents (39.9 percent of whom do not charge a fee) and parks respondents (39.7 percent).

A growing number of respondents report that they have plans to increase their fees over the next several years, though a majority still indicate that they have plans to hold fees steady. Around one-third (33.2 percent) said they increased fees from 2014 to 2015. Looking forward, 35.4 percent plan to increase fees in 2016, and 38.9 percent will increase fees in 2017. (See Figure 17.) At the same time, the number of respondents who plan to keep fees the same falls from 67.6 percent in 2014 to 60.4 percent in 2017.

Of those facilities that do charge a fee for membership or usage, those from camps, YMCAs and health clubs were the most likely to report that they had raised their fees from 2014 to 2015, while those from schools were the least likely to raise fees in that time period. Some 53.7 percent of camp respondents who charge a fee said they had increased that fee in 2015. They were followed by YMCAs (47.2 percent) and health clubs (40.4 percent). Only 22.2 percent of school respondents who charge a fee said they had increased that fee in 2015.

Looking forward, camps continue to be the most likely to plan fee increases, while college respondents are the least likely to plan to increase fees. Some 57.3 percent of camp respondents said they would increase fees in 2016, and 51.9 percent plan to increase fees in 2017. They were followed by health clubs, 42.9 percent of whom plan fee increases in 2016 and 51.9 percent in 2017. Around one-quarter of college respondents who charge a fee said they plan to increase that fee in 2016 (25.5 percent will do so) and in 2017 (24.8 percent).

In 2015, some 59.8 percent of respondents said they expected usage of their facilities to increase from 2014 to 2015. This year, 54.1 percent reported that such an increase had taken place, while 8.3 percent said the number of people using their facilities had decreased. (See Figure 18.)

Looking ahead, more than half of respondents also expect utilization of their facilities to increase in 2016 (54.6 percent) and in 2017 (54 percent). At the same time, just 3.7 percent expect a decrease in 2016, and 1.9 percent projected a decrease in 2017.

Respondents from urban communities were 10 percent more likely to report an increase in the number of people using their facilities from 2014 to 2015 than those from rural communities. Some 58.8 percent of urban respondents said usage had increased in that time period, compared with 48.8 percent of rural respondents. Among suburban respondents, 55.9 percent reported that utilization had increased from 2014 to 2015. At the same time, 9.8 percent of rural respondents reported decreasing usage, compared with 7.4 percent of urban and 7.2 percent of suburban respondents.

Looking forward, urban respondents continue to be most likely to see increasing usage of their facilities, with rural respondents least likely to expect increases. From 2015 to 2016, 60.3 percent of urban respondents said they expect usage of their facilities to increase. They were followed by suburban respondents (54.7 percent) and rural respondents (51.2 percent). From 2016 to 2017, 58.3 percent of urban respondents, 54.8 percent of suburban respondents and 50.2 percent of rural respondents expect utilization of their facilities to increase.

From 2014 to 2015, respondents from parks, community recreation centers and camps were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased, while those from health clubs and YMCAs were the most likely to report a decrease. Some 60.7 percent of parks respondents said usage of their facilities increased from 2014 to 2015. They were followed by community recreation centers (60 percent) and camps (55.8 percent). At the same time, 19.4 percent of health club respondents reported decreases in usage of their facilities, followed by YMCAs (18.3 percent).

Looking forward, health club respondents are the most likely to expect increasing usage of their facilities in 2016 and 2017. From 2015 to 2016, 68.9 percent of health club respondents expect usage to increase. They were followed by parks respondents (61.8 percent expect an increase) and YMCAs (53.8 percent). From 2016 to 2017, 77.8 percent of health club respondents expect to see usage of their facilities grow. In that time frame, 60.1 percent of parks respondents and 57.6 percent of camp respondents also expect to see increasing utilization of their facilities.