COMMUNITY TRENDS

Town and Country

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

As with last year's survey, this year's study shows that the concentration of programs, facilities and offerings occurs in the urban and suburban areas. More money is planned for new facilities and renovations in these areas, and they also are more likely to be planning to add a wide range of amenities and programs.

Suburban facilities were most heavily represented in the survey: 43.8 percent of respondents said they worked for suburban organizations. These were followed by rural organizations, represented by 31.7 percent of respondents. Urban facilities were represented by nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) of respondents.

More than two-thirds (66.7 percent) of urban respondents said they represented public organizations, compared to 61.1 percent of suburban respondents and 58.8 percent of rural respondents. Private for-profit and private nonprofit organizations were more heavily represented by rural organizations. Some 13.2 percent of rural respondents were from private for-profit organizations, compared to 12 percent of suburban respondents and 9.6 percent of urban respondents. And 20 percent of rural respondents worked for private nonprofit organizations, compared to 17.2 percent of suburban and 16 percent of urban respondents.

Urban respondents were most likely to represent parks and recreation departments. More than 46 percent of respondents in this category said they were from parks and recreation departments or community recreation and sports centers. This category was followed by colleges and universities. Just under 19 percent of urban respondents were from colleges and universities. Another 11 percent said they were from health, fitness and sports clubs; while 6.3 percent represented YMCAs, YWCAs and JCCs.

Less than a third (28.8 percent) of rural respondents represented parks and recreation departments—still the largest number of respondents in the category, but a much smaller percentage than for urban and suburban facilities. Another 14.4 percent of respondents in this category were from colleges and universities, which was followed by campgrounds, RV parks and private camps, represented by 14.2 percent of rural respondents. For obvious reasons, camping-related facilities are far more heavily concentrated in rural areas. This category was followed by schools and school districts, represented by 13.5 percent of rural respondents, and health clubs, represented by 11.7 percent of respondents in this category. Rural respondents were also more likely than urban and suburban respondents to be from golf clubs and country clubs, and resorts and resort hotels, while they were less likely to represent YMCAs, military installations and ice rinks.


Figure 30: Type of Facility, by Community Type
URBANSUBURBANRURAL
Parks & Rec/Community Rec/Sports Ctrs46.1%47.1%28.8%
College/University18.8%10.2%14.4%
Health/Fitness/Sports Club, Racquet/Tennis Club/ Corp./Private Rec/Sports Clubs11.0%15.0%11.7%
School/School Dist5.6%6.8%13.5%
Campground/RV Park/Youth/Private Camp1.9%3.4%14.2%
YMCA/YWCA/JCC6.3%5.8%5.5%
Military Installation3.1%3.5%1.9%
Golf/Country Club1.9%2.8%3.9%
Resort/Resort Hotel1.3%0.9%3.7%
Waterpark/Theme/ Amusement Park1.0%2.1%1.1%
Ice Rink1.3%1.3%0.3%
Stadium/Arena/Track0.8%0.5%0.2%
Other1.0%0.8%0.8%

Suburban respondents crossed the divide between the facility types, often falling on the side of urban facilities in terms of representation. Nearly half (47.1 percent) of suburban respondents represented parks and recreation departments. This category was followed by health clubs, represented by 15 percent of suburban respondents, and colleges and universities, represented by just over 10 percent. Suburban respondents had similar numbers to urban respondents when it came to representation of schools and school districts, campgrounds and RV parks, military installations, resorts and resort hotels, and ice rinks. (See Figure 30.)

Perhaps reflecting their larger percentage of parks and recreation departments, respondents from urban and suburban facilities were far more likely to report that they managed or operated 10 or more facilities compared to rural respondents, who were far more likely to operate just a single facility.

Among urban respondents, less than a third (32.1 percent) said they managed just one facility. Another 37.9 percent said they managed between two and nine facilities, and 30 percent managed 10 or more.

For suburban respondents, just over a third (34.6 percent) said they managed a single facility, compared to 44.8 percent who managed from two to nine facilities, and more than one out of five respondents (20.6 percent) who managed 10 or more.

Rural respondents were more likely to manage a single facility. More than two-fifths (41.7 percent) said they managed a single facility, while nearly half (47.3 percent) said they managed between two and nine facilities, with nearly a quarter (24.5 percent) managing just two or three facilities, Another 11 percent said they managed or operated 10 or more facilities. (See Figure 31.)

Numbers were pretty similar for all community types for changes in usage from 2006 to 2007. While urban and suburban community respondents were more likely to report that they had seen a decrease than rural respondents, they also were more likely to report an increase. More than 7 percent of both urban (7.3 percent) and suburban (7.5 percent) respondents said the number of people using their facility had decreased from 2006 to 2007, compared with just 4.9 percent of rural respondents. But 43 percent of suburban respondents and 45.9 percent of urban respondents said they had seen increases in that same year—with nearly 29 percent of urban respondents reporting an increase of 10 percent or more—while 41.2 percent of rural respondents said they had seen increases in participation.

Over the next several years, urban respondents were more likely than other communities to be expecting increasing participation. From 2008 to 2009, 46.3 percent of respondents from urban communities said they were expecting the number of people using their facilities to increase, compared to 43.3 percent of suburban respondents and just 39.4 percent of rural respondents. More than 30 percent of urban respondents were anticipating increases of 10 percent or more that year. Rural respondents were more likely to be expecting things to remain even. Almost 60 percent of respondents from rural facilities said they expected the number of people visiting them to remain the same from 2008 to 2009.

Suburban facilities were more likely than others to see increasing revenues from 2006 to 2007. Some 41.5 percent reported their revenues had increased in this time period, compared to 38.4 percent of rural respondents and 34.5 percent of urban respondents. Most respondents across all three categories had seen flat revenues for the year, with 59.2 percent of urban, 57.1 percent of rural and 52.1 percent of suburban respondents indicating that their revenues had not changed from 2006 to 2007. These numbers do not change much over the next several years, as just 45.6 percent of suburban and 39.1 percent of rural respondents anticipate seeing increases in their revenue. A greater increase is anticipated among urban respondents, where 42 percent expect revenues to increase from 2008 to 2009.

While urban respondents reported the highest operating expenditures for fiscal 2007—with an average cost that was 88.2 percent higher than the average cost reported by rural respondents—respondents from rural communities were anticipating the greatest increase in their operating expenditures between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2009. Rural respondents are anticipating a 15.3 percent increase between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2009, while urban respondents are expecting a 10.9 percent increase in the same time period. This will reduce the difference between the average operating expenditures in these types of communities from 88.2 percent to 81 percent.

Suburban respondents fell in the middle, with costs and anticipated changes falling more closely to urban averages. On average, suburban respondents reported their fiscal 2007 operating expenditures were $1,556,000, just 10.5 percent lower than the average reported by urban respondents.

And they are expecting their expenditures to grow at nearly the same rate—11 percent—over the next couple of years. (See Figure 32.)


Figure 32: Average Operating Expenditures, 2007-2009, by Community
FISCAL 2007FISCAL 2008FISCAL 2009PERCENT CHANGE,
2007-2009
All Types$1,386,800$1,459,300$1,554,700+12.1%
Urban$1,719,800$1,787,400$1,906,900+10.9%
Suburban$1,556,000$1,623,800$1,726,400+11.0%
Rural$913,900$990,700$1,053,600+15.3%

Interestingly, when it comes to operating expenditures for aquatic operating expenditures, it is the urban respondents who project the highest percentage increases between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2009. Urban respondents reported that their operating expenditures for aquatics would rise from an average of $498,500 in fiscal 2007 to $602,500 in 2009—an increase of 20.9 percent. Suburban respondents are expecting a slightly smaller increase of 16.1 percent from $396,800 in fiscal 2007 to $460,800 in 2009. Rural respondents, on the other hand, are anticipating a much slower increase of just 1 percent, from $262,300 in fiscal 2007 to $264,800 in 2009.

With a larger pool of candidates to choose from, and with a higher likelihood of operating more facilities—and more complex facilities—it is probably no surprise that urban facilities not only employ far more people than their suburban and rural counterparts, but also are anticipating the largest increase in the number of employees in the next three years. Urban respondents currently employ an average of 285.9 people, and they expect that number to grow by 51.5 percent in the next three years to 433.2, driven largely by a 145.6 percent increase in the number of seasonal workers they employ, much larger than the 62.9 percent increase expected among facilities of all types. They also are expecting a 42.9 percent increase in the number of volunteers they employ, compared to a 32.9 percent increase expected among all types of communities. Other increases fall more closely to the average among all facilities, with a 10.3 percent increase in the number of full-timers and a 21.1 percent increase in the number of part-timers.

Suburban facilities were expecting more rapid increases in the number of full-time workers they employed—a 20.7 percent increase within the next three years, though they were anticipating smaller-than-average increases in the other types of employees, including part-time (a 16.9 percent increase), seasonal (a 14.9 percent increase) and volunteers (a 19 percent increase).

Rural respondents were the only community type anticipating cuts, projecting an 8.5 percent decrease in the number of full-time workers they employed, while they were anticipating a larger increase—53 percent—in the number of volunteers working at their facilities.

Building Plans

Turner Construction Company, one of the leading general builders in the United States, announced in March that construction costs had increase 1.48 percent over the fourth quarter of 2007, and 4.96 percent over the first quarter of 2007. Karl Almstead, the Turner vice president responsible for the Turner Building Cost Index, said that despite slowdowns in the residential construction market and uncertainty in credit markets, the non-residential construction market remains active.

"The perception that there may be an economic slowdown has led to an easing of pricing pressure and an increase in competition among trade contractors in some markets," he said. "However, in major metropolitan markets such as New York City, the available volume of work continues to drive pricing upward."

This is reflected in the increases in anticipated spending on facilities—new, additions and renovations—compared to last year's survey. Among urban respondents, there is a 31.9 percent increase in the amount planned for new facilities, additions and renovations over the next several years, from $4.7 million last year to nearly $6.2 million this year. Rural respondents' average amount planned increased by 10.7 percent over last year's budget, while suburban respondents' amount planned increased by 7.3 percent.

Facilities of all types are about equally likely to be planning to build new, add onto their existing facilities or renovate their existing facilities. Nearly three-quarters of urban (71.6 percent), suburban (72.6 percent) and rural (72.7 percent) respondents have plans of some kind. (See Figure 33.)

Many amenities are far more likely to be found in urban areas, while others are more likely to be found in rural areas. Suburban facilities fall in the middle, offering the best of both worlds. In some areas, they are more similar to their urban counterparts, while in others they are more similar to rural offerings—in the end, that means suburban facilities seem to offer a wider range of amenities for their patrons' use. Most of the differences in types of amenities included in facilities follow what the public likely would expect, with urban facilities more likely to include things like dog parks, skateparks, splash play and synthetic turf—all amenities that seem to go hand-in-hand with a higher population density where people have less access to open space—while rural facilities are more likely to include campgrounds and skiing.

Urban areas are nearly twice as likely to include a skatepark than rural areas. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of urban respondents said they had a skatepark, compared to just 12.7 percent of rural respondents. Disc golf is also far more common in urban areas, where 17.7 percent said they included a disc golf course, compared to just 11 percent of rural areas. Likewise, dog parks are far more common in urban settings and suburban areas, where 16.9 percent and 11.9 percent of respective respondents included such a facility, than in rural areas, where just 4.5 percent included a dog park.

Splash play is also more likely to be found in urban facilities. Some 16 percent of urban respondents said they had a splash park, compared to just 6.5 percent of rural respondents, and more urban respondents were planning to add more splash play areas within the next few years.

The same goes for synthetic turf playing fields. More than 12 percent of urban respondents said they had synthetic turf, compared to just over 5 percent of rural respondents, and urban respondents were more likely to be planning to add synthetic turf as well.

Among rural respondents, 23.4 percent said their facility included a campground, compared to just 10.5 percent of urban facilities. They also are far more likely to be planning to add campgrounds. Skiing is also more common in rural areas, where 8.4 percent said they included ski trails, compared to urban and suburban areas, where less than 3 percent of respondents included skiing.

Rural respondents were more likely than others to be planning to add a challenge course. Nearly 10 percent of rural respondents said they had such plans over the next three years.

Programs

While suburban respondents were more likely to include most types of programs, there were differences. Urban respondents, for example, were the most likely to include fitness programs, educational programs and sports tournaments and races. Rural respondents, on the other hand, were more likely to include camping and climbing programs.

The top five programs among urban facilities were: fitness, day camps and summer camps, holidays and other special events, educational programs, and sports tournaments and races.

The top five programs among suburban facilities were: holidays and other special events, day camps and summer camps, fitness programs, active older adult programming, and educational programs.

The top five programs among rural facilities were holidays and other special events, fitness, day camps and summer camps, educational programs, and sports tournaments and races.



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