COMMUNITY TRENDS

Urban Centers, Suburban Growth and Rural Recreation

A Look at Community Trends in Managed Recreation, Fitness and Sports Facilities

When the responses to the survey are analyzed according to different types of communities-from the largest urban cityscape to the most rural open areas-different trends emerge. Across all types of communities, it is the suburban areas that seem to have the most of all types of recreation opportunities, as well as the greatest increases in people using their facilities, the highest budgets and the most different kinds of amenities and programs.

Nearly 43 percent of respondents said they are from suburban communities. Nearly half of all respondents from parks and recreation departments said they worked in suburban communities. Respondents working for YMCAs, health clubs and sports clubs also were much more likely to be from suburban communities. Just under 45 percent of respondents from military installations also said they worked in suburban communities.

The second largest group of respondents-approximately one-third-said they were from facilities in rural areas. These facilities represented more than a quarter of all respondents from parks and recreation departments, as well as a quarter of all college and university respondents. Respondents working for schools and school districts, as well as campgrounds, private camps and RV parks were much more likely to be from rural areas than urban or suburban communities. Resorts and resort hotels also were more likely to be in rural communities.

Slightly more than a quarter of respondents work for facilities in urban areas. Respondents from colleges and universities were most likely to be in urban areas, with just over 42 percent of respondents from these types of facilities reporting they were in an urban community. (See Figure 32.)


Respondents in suburban areas were most likely to charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. In these communities, more than 70 percent said they charge a fee. At the other end of the spectrum, just slightly more than half of respondents in rural areas charge a fee for membership or usage. This may reflect a greater predominance of traditional parks-and less inclusion of indoor facilities like fitness and sports centers where membership might be required-in rural communities. Urban facilities fell somewhere in between, with nearly 63 percent of these respondents charging a fee.

Increases in the numbers of people using recreation facilities are expected in all community types over the next several years. Suburban communities also were most likely to report increases in the numbers of people using their facilities. From 2005 to 2006, 68 percent of respondents in these communities saw increases in usage. By 2007 to 2008, nearly three-quarters are expecting increases in usage. Rural facilities are the least likely to expect increases in the number of people visiting their facilities. Less than 60 percent said there was an increase from 2005 to 2006. By 2007 to 2008, just under two-thirds are expecting increases. Respondents from urban facilities were more likely to report a decrease in usage for 2005 to 2006, with more than 7 percent saying they saw decreases for this year. This number falls sharply by 2007 to 2008, when more than 70 percent of urban respondents anticipate increases in the number of people using their facilities. (See Figure 33.)


Likewise, the greatest revenue increases are expected among suburban facilities over the next several years. From 2005 to 2006, 61.4 percent of respondents from suburban facilities said they saw increases in their revenues. By 2007 to 2008, more than 67 percent are anticipating increases in revenue. Urban and rural communities were far less likely to report increases in revenues from 2005 to 2006. Less than half of respondents in each of these groups said their revenues had increased in this time period. However, by 2007 to 2008, more than 62 percent of respondents in each group are projecting revenue increases.

Respondents from urban areas are expecting the greatest increase in their average annual operating expenditures, projecting an 8.8 percent increase from $1,344,671 on average in fiscal 2006 to $1,463,211 on average in fiscal 2008. Slower rates of increase were projected by respondents from facilities in suburban and rural communities. Those in suburban communities projected a 7.5 percent increase for the same time period from $1,337,291 on average in fiscal 2006 to $1,437,865 on average in fiscal 2008. Rural communities-whose operating expenditures were more than $340,000 lower than the average across all community types-were projecting the smallest rates of increase. Respondents in these communities projected a 7.3 percent increase from $837,984 on average in fiscal 2006 to $898,906 on average in fiscal 2008.

Despite their much smaller expenditures on operations, though, rural facilities were the most likely to be planning changes to their facilities-particularly adding to or renovating their existing facilities. Nearly four out of every five respondents from rural areas had plans of some kind for their facilities. Suburban facilities were the least likely to have current plans to build new facilities, or to add onto or renovate their existing facilities. More than a quarter said they currently have no plans. That said, they were slightly more likely than their urban and rural counterparts to be planning to build new. Urban respondents were the least likely to be planning new facilities or planning to add on to their existing facilities, though they were more likely than their suburban counterparts to be planning renovations. (See Figure 34.)


On the other hand, urban respondents were planning the greatest expenditures on their building plans, with more than $4.7 million budgeted for such plans. Suburban respondents had slightly less budgeted, with $4.1 million to spend on new facilities, additions and renovations. Rural respondents were planning to spend the smallest dollar amount on their building plans-$2.8 million.

When it comes to what's included in their facilities, respondents in urban areas were most likely to provide indoor amenities like locker rooms, indoor sports courts, fitness centers, climbing walls and running tracks. Respondents from urban communities were also the most likely to include indoor aquatic facilities. For outdoor activities, urban respondents were more likely than those in suburban and rural communities to include skateparks and synthetic turf sports fields. Urban areas placed far less emphasis on outdoor amenities like waterfronts and marinas, trails and open spaces, park structures, playgrounds and concession areas.

On the other hand, respondents from urban communities were most likely to be planning to add amenities like waterparks and splash play areas, as well as playgrounds.

Urban facilities' top 10 planned amenities for the next three years include:

  • Waterpark or splash play areas
  • Trails and open spaces
  • Park structures
  • Bleachers and seating
  • Playgrounds
  • Synthetic turf sports fields
  • Climbing walls
  • Concession areas
  • Fitness centers
  • Indoor sports courts

Respondents from suburban facilities tended to report having more amenities of all kinds-indoor and outdoor than others. These facilities seem to represent a middle ground between the kinds of offerings provided in urban communities and those offered in rural facilities. In other words, suburban communities seem to contain a little bit of everything. The amenities were either more typically included in suburban and urban areas or in suburban and rural areas.

That said, respondents in suburban communities were more likely to report including things like outdoor sport courts, park structures, outdoor and indoor aquatic facilities, waterparks and splash play areas, golf courses and ice rinks than respondents from other kinds of communities.

Park spaces seemed to be among the top planned facilities for suburban communities (as well as rural communities), with park structures, and trails and open spaces being the top two amenities these respondents were planning to add over the next several years. They also were more likely than other types of communities to be planning to add skateparks.

The top 10 amenities suburban facilities are planning to add over the next few years include:

  • Park structures
  • Trails and open spaces
  • Bleachers and seating
  • Playgrounds
  • Natural turf sports fields
  • Waterpark and splash play areas
  • Synthetic turf sports fields
  • Outdoor sport courts
  • Concession areas
  • Skateparks

Respondents from rural communities were more likely than those in urban and suburban areas to report that their facilities included concession areas, trails and open spaces, and waterfronts or marinas. Outdoor and traditional options are more common in these communities, with outdoor sport courts, playgrounds, sports fields, trails and open spaces and park structures among the top amenities included in these facilities.

Rural facilities were far less likely to include synthetic sports fields. On average, more than 12 percent of all respondents rely on synthetic turf. That number jumps to more than 17 percent for urban facilities, but falls to just over 6 percent of rural facilities. This could be a reflection of the lower number of people using the sports fields in rural communities. Because of this, rural facilities likely have more time than facilities in urban and suburban areas to allow their fields to rest between programmed activities.

Likewise, they were far less likely to include waterparks or splash play areas. Nearly 22 percent of suburban communities provided such features, while just over 9 percent of rural communities had them.

Rural communities were also less likely to include golf courses, skateparks, climbing walls, indoor aquatic facilities, fitness centers, community or multipurpose centers, and many of the amenities associated with indoor facilities like indoor sport courts and locker rooms.

Respondents from rural communities, which seem to rely mainly on traditional park offerings with plenty of outdoor opportunities, were most likely to be planning to add more of the same.

However, fitness centers, climbing walls and other indoor options also appeared on this group of respondents' list of top 10 planned amenities for the next several years:

  • Park structures
  • Trails and open spaces
  • Fitness centers
  • Waterpark and splash play areas
  • Bleachers and seating
  • Playgrounds
  • Climbing walls
  • Natural turf sports fields
  • Indoor sport courts
  • Locker rooms

When it comes to programming their facilities, the respondents in suburban communities were the most likely to offer programming of all kinds. There was no type of programming that could be found in more urban or rural facilities than in the suburban facilities.

The top 10 program offerings in suburban facilities do differ slightly from the general survey population, mainly because they simply are much more likely than others to offer most types of programming. For example, they were nearly 13 percent more likely to offer mind/body balance programs like yoga and tai chi than the general survey population. They were also 12.4 percent more likely to provide sport training options, such as golf instruction or tennis lessons. They are more than 10 percent more likely to offer fitness programs, and day camps and summer camps. They also include programs for active older adults among their top 10 program options, with more than 55 percent of suburban facilities offering such programming.

Suburban facilities were also the most likely to be planning new programs for the next few years. Their top five planned program additions were led by environmental education, followed by fitness programs, teen programs, mind/body balance and nutrition and diet counseling.

Among urban respondents, the top 10 current program offerings also differed from the general survey population in a couple of ways. They were nearly 11 percent more likely than the general survey population to provide mind/body balance programs. They also were nearly 10 percent more likely than respondents across the board to provide fitness programs, and were 5 percent more likely to include swimming programs, day camps and summer camps, sports tournaments or races, adult sports teams, and individual sports activities, such as running clubs and swim clubs.

Urban facilities were less likely than their suburban and rural counterparts to be planning additions to their programs. That said, their top five planned program additions for the next few years include fitness programs, mind/body balance programs, nutrition and diet counseling, teen programming, and educational programs.

The top 10 programs offered in rural communities also differ from the general survey results, mainly in the fact that these facilities tended to be less likely to offer programs of any kind. The exception to this rule was arts and crafts programs, which can be found in the facilities of more than two out of five of the rural respondents.

Rural communities were about average in terms of the programs they said they were planning to add in the next three years. They were more likely than the general survey population to be planning programs for environmental education, fitness, education, mind/body balance and teen programming.

Click here to continue with Parks & Community Recreation Centers.



© Copyright 2019 Recreation Management. All rights reserved.