State of the Industry 2011

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

By Emily Tipping

For the past several years, the results of our annual State of the Industry survey have been heavily marked by the economic downturn and its aftereffects. This year, as most economic signs point to recovery, our results also show an increasingly positive outlook.

That said, there's no denying that many respondents—particularly those from segments of the market that are still feeling the effects of the economic fallout, including schools, municipalities and other local government entities—are still reporting lower-than-expected revenues and decreasing budgets. At the same time, many are finding ways to adjust and improve their operations—by renovating existing facilities rather than building new, or by adopting energy-efficiency measures to reduce costs—rather than simply throwing in the towel. And plenty of respondents report that they have plans for expanding their offerings—with more facilities, more amenities, more programming, more staff, and so on.

Overall, more than 2,000 professionals from the managed recreation, sports and fitness market responded to our 50-plus-question survey. In these pages, we tally the results and report back to you on the current state of this industry.



Survey Methodology

This report is based on a survey conducted for Recreation Management by Signet Research Inc., an independent research company. An e-mail was broadcast and respondents were invited to participate on the Web site. From the launch of the survey on Feb. 10, 2011 to the closing of the survey on March 1, 2,025 returns were received. The findings of this survey may be accepted as accurate, at a 95 percent confidence level, within a sampling tolerance of approximately +/- 2.2 percent.


Who Are the Respondents?

Respondents are primarily decision-makers and facility management professionals. More than a third (34.7 percent) are directors, while another fifth (19.7 percent) represent administration management, including administrators, managers and superintendents. Some 15.6 percent are in operations facility management, including operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors. More than one in 10 (11.1 percent) are the chairman, CEO, president, owner or vice president of their organization. The remainder of respondents represent positions in program or activity administration, including activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists and coaches (10.7 percent). Around 7 percent of respondents said they had an "other" position, and 1 percent represented service professionals such as planners, designers, architects and consultants.

There was no statistical difference in the regions represented by this year's survey respondents, compared with last year's respondents. As last year (and every year of the survey, for that matter), the largest group (29.1 percent) of respondents hailed from the Midwest. This includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (See Figure 1.)

The next largest group, at 21.7 percent of the survey population, came from the West, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

These regions were followed by the South Atlantic. Some 18.4 percent of respondents said they were from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia


Slightly fewer, 17.2 percent, came from the Northeast, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.

Finally, 13.3 percent of respondents were from the South Central region, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

As last year, just 0.4 percent of respondents said they were not from the United States.

For further information on the survey results broken down by regional division, turn to page 36.

There also was very little change in the type of community our respondents hailed from. The largest number of respondents indicated that they work in suburban areas, with 40.8 percent. Just under a third (32.8 percent) said they work in rural areas, and a little more than a quarter (26.4 percent) work in urban areas. (See Figure 2.)

Fewer respondents to this year's survey were from public organizations (such as municipal park districts). While nearly 70 percent of last year's respondents were from public organizations, this year, just 64.5 percent said they worked for a public organization. This was offset by increases in the number of respondents working both for private nonprofit (17.7 percent) organizations (such as YMCAs and some colleges) and private for-profit (13.1 percent) organizations, such as health clubs. (See Figure 3.)

Much of this decrease may be explained by the corresponding drop in respondents representing segments of the market such as parks and recreation districts and departments, as well as schools and school districts. While park agencies still represented the largest percentage of respondents this year, at 37 percent, it was a drop from last year, when 39.5 percent of respondents were from park agencies. (For more information on responses from parks and recreation organizations, turn to page 56.) Likewise, last year 10.6 percent of respondents were from schools and school districts, while this year that number has fallen to 7.4 percent. (Additional information on responses from schools and school districts can be found on page 68.) At the same time, there has been an increase in the percentage of respondents representing colleges and universities (from 15.3 percent to 16.5 percent), as well as YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys and Girls Clubs (from 4.1 percent to 6.1 percent). (Further detail on responses from colleges and universities can be found on page 64, and more information on responses from YMCAs can be found on page 76.)

Rounding out the responses were those from community or private recreation and sports centers (7.4 percent); campgrounds, RV parks and private and youth camps (7.7 percent, with additional detail on page 79); sports, health and fitness clubs (3.6 percent, with further information found on page 72); resorts and resort hotels (2.5 percent); golf or country clubs (2.2 percent); military installations (1.5 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.9 percent); ice rinks (0.5 percent); racquet and tennis clubs (0.4 percent); corporate recreation or sports centers (0.4 percent); and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.3 percent). (See Figure 4.)

More respondents this year indicated that they manage a single facility. In fact, the trend this year was toward managing fewer facilities among the survey respondents, generally speaking. This probably also reflects the drop in public employees among the survey population. More than a third (36.2 percent ) of respondents said they manage just one facility (compared with 32.9 percent last year), and another 23.9 percent manage two or three facilities. Less than a fifth (18 percent) manage 10 or more facilities. (See Figure 5.)

The number of facilities managed by respondents is correlated with the segment of the market in which they work. For example, parks and recreation respondents were less likely than other respondents to indicate that they manage just a single facility (15.9 percent) and were more likely to indicate that they operate 20 or more facilities (13.8 percent). Respondents from schools and school districts also were more likely than other respondents to say that they manage 20 or more facilities. Some 13.6 percent of them do so.

At the same time, parks and recreation respondents, on average, are managing fewer facilities than last year's respondents in this category. The average parks respondents manage 10.1 facilities (compared with 12.1 last year). The same holds true for schools and school districts, where respondents manage an average of 9.8 facilities (compared with 10.5 last year). (See Figure 6.)

More than two-thirds (67.4 percent) of respondents from colleges and universities said they manage three or fewer facilities, with about a third (32.9 percent) managing a single facility. On average, college respondents said they manage 3.9 facilities.

Respondents most likely to report that they operate or manage just a single facility came from health clubs, where 76.7 percent said they manage one facility; campgrounds and camps (68.8 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (59.1 percent); and YMCAs (47.5 percent).

As one might expect, respondents from urban areas were more likely to report that they handle a larger number of facilities. More than a third (35.9 percent ) of urban respondents said they manage six or more facilities. This compares with just 27.6 percent of those from suburban organizations, and 20.1 percent of those from rural areas.

The vast majority of respondents said they form partnerships with other organizations in order to fulfill their mission. Only 14.9 percent of respondents said they do not partner with any other organizations. Among respondents, the most popular partners were local schools (58.4 percent of respondents partner with them), local government (50.5 percent) and nonprofit organizations (44.5 percent). (See Figure 7.)

There was very little change from last year in terms of the percentage of respondents partnering with specific types of organizations, with one exception. Health care and medical facilities seem to be increasing in popularity. Last year, 17.4 percent of respondents partnered with such facilities, while this year, that number is up to 20.1 percent.

There also was little change in the tendency of specific segments of the industry to form partnerships. For the most part, respondents from specific facility types were slightly less likely to report that they form partnerships this year than last. For example, while 95.2 percent of last year's parks respondents said they partner with other organizations, this year, that number dropped by one percentage point to 94.2 percent. One notable exception was among camp facilities. Last year, around two-thirds (65.9 percent) of these respondents said they partner with other organizations, but this year that number jumped to three-quarters (75 percent). (See Figure 8.)

Show Me the Money!

While pundits debate whether the economy is recovering at the proper pace, economic concerns among our survey participants have eased somewhat. Last year, the vast majority, 87.5 percent, indicated that they were concerned about the impact of the economic downturn on their facility. This year, that number has fallen to 84.5 percent. At the same time, the low number of respondents who say they are not concerned at all, 2.6 percent last year, has risen this year to 4.2 percent. (See Figure 9.)

The highest levels of concern were reported by respondents from schools and school districts (88.6 percent were concerned, with 47.7 percent indicating that they were extremely concerned); parks respondents (86.8 percent were concerned, with 37.7 percent extremely concerned); and YMCAs (86.2 percent were concerned, with 35 percent extremely concerned).

Respondents from colleges and universities were the most likely to report that they were not concerned about the impact of the economic downturn on their facilities, though the majority still indicated they were concerned to some degree. Just 7.2 percent of college respondents said they were not concerned at all.

After a year of falling revenue, this year's respondents are beginning to see positive growth again. Last year, 37.2 percent of respondents reported their revenues were higher in 2009 than in 2008, and 35.8 percent said they were expecting 2010 revenues to be higher than 2009. This year's respondents beat that number, with 38.4 percent reporting higher revenues in 2010 than in 2009. Another 38.1 percent said their revenues were the same in 2010 as 2009, and 23.5 percent reported a decrease in revenues for the year.

In 2011 and 2012, respondents expect further improvement, with 40.8 percent projecting an increase in revenues for 2011 and 43.8 percent for 2012. At the same time, fewer are expecting their revenues to drop, with 15.9 percent expecting a drop in 2011 and 11 percent expecting a drop in 2012. (See Figure 10.)

Respondents from YMCAs, health clubs and camps were the most likely to report revenues had increased in 2010, and they also were the most likely to expect further increases in 2011 and 2012. For 2010, 52.7 percent of YMCA respondents, 50 percent of health club respondents and 46.1 percent of camp respondents said their revenues had increased. In 2011, those numbers rise to 63.7 percent for YMCAs, 58.7 percent for camps and 54 percent for health clubs. This is followed by yet another rise in 2012, with 67.2 percent of health clubs, 65.1 percent of YMCAs and 63.4 percent of camp respondents projecting revenues to increase.

In 2010, schools were simultaneously the least likely to report an increase in revenues (just 9.6 percent) and the most likely to report a drop (33.6 percent). Respondents from schools and school districts were also the most likely to project falling revenues in 2011 (41.5 percent) and 2012 (41.2 percent).

Respondents from parks were also more likely than other respondents to report dropping revenues, with more than a quarter (25.8 percent) indicating revenues had fallen from 2009 to 2010. In 2011, 17.6 percent expect revenues to drop (though 39.1 percent projected an increase). And, in 2012, 10.6 percent project a drop (with 39.9 percent projecting an increase).

At the same time that many respondents are reporting higher revenues, operating budgets have decreased. Last year's respondents projected an operating budget for fiscal 2010 of $1,856,000. This year, respondents reported that their actual operating budgets for that same time period were $1,427,000, more than percent less than projected. That said, they are expecting a slight increase for fiscal 2011, of 1.5 percent to $1,449,000, and a further increase of 3 percent in fiscal 2012 to $1,493,000. (See Figure 11.)

Across the board, respondents from all industry segments except for camps reported lower-than-expected operating budgets for fiscal 2010 when compared with last year's respondents. The largest discrepancies were found among schools, whose reported operating budgets for fiscal 2010 were 42.5 percent less than projected last year, as well as colleges, at 28.8 percent less than projected. Camp respondents, on the other hand, reported operating budgets for fiscal 2010 that were 12.9 percent higher than projected by last year's respondents.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2012, the largest increases in operating budgets are expected among community centers, where respondents are expecting a 12.4 percent increase to operating expenditures, and among camps at 11 percent. The lowest increases are found among health clubs, where respondents projected a 0.4 percent increase to operating budgets, and colleges, at 3.1 percent.

Overall, YMCAs reported the highest operating expenditures for fiscal 2010 at $2,008,000, 40.7 percent more than the across-the-board average. They were followed by parks at $1,614,000, 13.1 percent more. The lowest operating expenditures in 2010 were found among community centers at $923,000 and camps, at $991,000. (See Figure 12.)

In light of the decreases seen in operating expenditures, it should come as no surprise that a majority (90.3 percent) of respondents have taken myriad actions aimed specifically at reducing their costs. The most common action taken was improving energy efficiency. More than half (58.6 percent) of respondents said they had taken measures to improve energy efficiency at their facilities. Slightly less than half (49.8 percent) reported that they had cut back on staff, and 43.1 percent said they had increased fees. More than a third (39.5 percent) had put their construction or renovation plans on hold. (See Figure 13.)

Respondents from YMCAs and camps were the most likely to indicate they had taken action to reduce operating expenditures. Some 95.1 percent of YMCAs and 91 percent of camps had done so. On the other hand, colleges and universities were most likely to report they had not taken any action to reduce expenditures, though a majority (84.7 percent) said they had taken some action.

YMCAs were the most likely to report that they had taken measures to improve energy efficiency (70.7 percent), reduced staff (58.5 percent) or increased their fees (56.1 percent). Respondents from colleges and universities were the least likely to have taken these measures.

While nearly half (46.8 percent) of camp respondents indicated that they had put construction plans on hold, only a little more than a quarter (26.4 percent) of colleges and universities had done so.

Schools and school districts were the most likely to indicate they had cut programs or services (37.6 percent) or closed facilities entirely (10.1 percent). Not surprisingly, health clubs, where these measures would have a detrimental effect on revenues, were the least likely to have cut programs or services (though 20.5 percent said they had) or closed facilities (none had closed facilities).

Community and private sports and recreation centers were the most likely to cut operating hours (29.5 percent). And camps (12.2 percent) and parks respondents (12.1 percent) were the most likely to report that they had shortened their season of operation.

Bring Them In

When it comes to the people using facilities, a majority (60.5 percent) of respondents to the survey require them to pay a fee. (See Figure 14.)

The most likely to charge a fee included respondents from YMCAs (96.7 percent of whom charge a fee for using their facilities), health clubs (93.2 percent) and community centers (68.9 percent). Schools were least likely to charge a fee. More than two-thirds (69.9 percent) of respondents from schools said they do not charge a fee. They were followed by respondents from camps (46.4 percent of whom do not charge a fee) and colleges (45.1 percent).

Despite challenges to their bottom line, a majority of respondents (69 percent) indicated that they did not increase fees from 2009 to 2010. Two-thirds (66.7 percent) kept their fees steady, and 2.3 percent actually decreased fees. Slightly higher numbers of respondents plan to raise fees in 2011 (35.3 percent) and in 2012 (39.9 percent). (See Figure 15.)

YMCAs were the most likely to report that their fees had increased from 2009 to 2010. Some 40.3 percent of respondents in this category said they had increased fees. Even more of these respondents are expecting to increase fees in 2011 (54.6 percent) and in 2012 (52.1 percent). They were followed by respondents from camps, nearly a third of whom (32.9 percent) said they had increased fees in 2010, with 46.3 percent planning to increase fees in 2011 and 41.5 percent planning to increase fees in 2012.


Sports and health clubs were at the other end of the spectrum. Although a quarter (25 percent) said they were anticipating fee increases in 2011, a full 11.8 percent were actually projecting a decrease in fees for that year.

Putting increasing pressure on many operating budgets (especially for respondents who charge no fees for their facilities and services), more than half of respondents reported that the number of people using their facilities had increased in 2010. Similar numbers are expecting to see increasing usage in 2011 and 2012. While 13.9 percent of respondents said the number of people using their facilities had fallen in 2010, 50.7 percent said that number had grown. Furthermore, 53.7 percent expect an increase in 2011, and 53.9 percent expect to see an increase in 2012. (See Figure 16.)


Respondents from parks were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased in 2010. Some 56.3 percent of parks respondents indicated this was the case. They were followed by those from colleges and universities at 54.6 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, more than a quarter (26.4 percent) of health club respondents and nearly a quarter (24.2 percent) of YMCA respondents reported that usage of their facilities had decreased in 2010.

That said, nearly two-thirds (64.8 percent) of YMCA respondents are expecting usage of their facilities to grow in 2011, and more than two-thirds (68.5 percent) are expecting to see more users in 2012. And 55.7 percent of health club respondents expect to see more users in 2011, while 64.1 percent project more usage in 2012.

In all of the years covered by the survey, respondents from schools were least likely to project increasing usage. In 2010, 29.3 percent of schools saw more users, while 10.5 percent saw a decrease. In 2011, 32.4 percent are anticipating an increase, while 9.2 percent expect usage to fall. And, in 2012, 30.1 percent projected more users, while 7.3 percent are anticipating usage to fall.

Construction Plans

To meet the needs of their growing base of users, a majority of facilities (60.3 percent) reported that they have plans to build new facilities or make additions or renovations to their existing facilities over the next three years. Nearly a quarter (24.2 percent) of respondents said they have plans to build new facilities, and just over a quarter (25.9 percent) said they plan to add to their existing facilities. Another 43.6 percent are planning renovations. (See Figure 17.)

Respondents from camps were the most likely to indicate that they had plans to build, with nearly three-quarters (72.9 percent) of these respondents indicating they plan to construct new or work on their existing facilities in the next three years. They were followed by YMCA respondents, 65 percent of whom have plans to build, and parks respondents, 64.9 percent of whom are planning to build.

Camps were the most likely to be planning new construction or additions in the next three years, with 40 percent of these respondents reporting that they have plans to build new facilities and 35.5 percent reporting they have plans for additions. Parks respondents were the most likely to be planning renovations, with 49.4 percent of these respondents reporting they have plans to make over their existing facilities.

Respondents from schools were the least likely to be planning construction of any kind. Less than half (46.3 percent) of schools respondents indicated that they have construction plans over the next three years.

While many respondents are planning construction, the amount they have budgeted for that construction has fallen slightly since 2010. Last year, the average amount planned for construction among all respondents was $4,461,000. This year, respondents reported they are planning to spend 11.6 percent less on their construction plans, at $3,942,000.

Respondents from colleges and universities had the largest budgets for their construction plans, at $7,681,000, 94.9 percent higher than the across-the-board average. They were followed by schools and school districts, whose respondents with construction plans were budgeting an average of $6,671,000 for their buildings, 69.2 percent higher than the across-the-board average. (See Figure 18.)

Only respondents from YMCAs reported that their budgets for construction were higher than the reported amount last year. Last year's YMCA respondents were planning to spend $4,051,000 on construction, and this year's YMCA respondents are budgeting an average of $5,226,000, a 29 percent increase.

The greatest decrease in dollars budgeted for construction was found among respondents from health clubs. The average amount planned for construction from this group last year was $1,381,000, and this year's respondents are planning an average budget of $1,077,000 for construction, a drop of 22 percent. They were followed by parks and recreation respondents, whose budgets for construction fell by 12.7 percent from an average of $3,907,000 in last year's survey to $3,411,000 this year.

There was very little change in the types of features and amenities included in the facilities of the survey respondents from last year to this year. The most commonly found features include locker rooms (57.5 percent of respondents have locker rooms), classrooms and meeting rooms (57.4 percent), bleachers and seating (56.8 percent), outdoor sports courts for basketball, tennis, etc. (54.1 percent) and concession areas (53.9 percent). (See Figure 19.)

The biggest growth from last year to this year was seen among respondents who report that their facilities include a campground. Last year, 13.2 percent of respondents reported that they have a campground. This year, that number jumped to 16 percent. In addition, the number of respondents reporting that their facilities include a splash play area also jumped slightly, from 14.9 percent last year to 16.2 percent this year.

Interestingly, while locker rooms are the most common feature among all respondents, they are most highly represented by respondents from health clubs, where 83.7 percent said their facilities have locker rooms, YMCAs (82.3 percent) and schools (77.9 percent). Surprisingly, only around two-thirds (68.5 percent) of health club respondents reported that their facilities include locker rooms.

Some types of features are obviously more predominant than others depending on the type of facility. For example, parks respondents were most likely to feature outdoor sport courts for things like tennis and basketball (68.3 percent), as well as playgrounds (81.6 percent), trails (72.1 percent), skateparks (39.2 percent), splash play areas (25.9 percent), disc golf (25.4 percent), dog parks (27.5 percent), ice rinks (17.6 percent) and waterparks (14.8 percent).

On the other hand, college and university respondents were the most likely to include indoor sports courts for sports like basketball and volleyball (79.6 percent included them) and synthetic turf fields (27 percent). Schools were most likely to include concessions (71.8 percent), natural turf fields (76.5 percent) and outdoor running tracks (65.1 percent).

Perhaps obviously, health clubs were most likely to include fitness centers (90.4 percent), while YMCAs were most likely to report that their facilities include locker rooms (83.7 percent), exercise studios (82.9 percent), indoor aquatic facilities (68.3 percent) and indoor running tracks (45.5 percent).

Respondents from camp facilities, on the other hand, were most likely to include outdoor aquatics among their amenities (48.1 percent of camps respondents include outdoor aquatics), as well as waterfronts or marinas (52.6 percent), campgrounds, obviously (64.7 percent), nature centers (33.3 percent), challenge courses (34.6 percent), and skiing or winter recreation (10.9 percent).

Some numbers were more surprising. Less than one-third of respondents from park districts and departments reported that they include fitness centers among their facilities, while well over half of schools and school districts (60.4 percent) said they have a fitness center.

A somewhat surprising 30.1 percent of camp respondents reported that they have a climbing wall—more than college and university respondents, 27.6 percent of whom have climbing walls. In addition, more park districts than health clubs reported that they have a climbing wall (13.3 percent vs. 9.6 percent).

While it should not be surprising that a third of camp respondents reported that their facilities include a nature center, and that 19.9 percent of parks have a nature center, it is interesting to note that 10.1 percent of schools and school districts reported that they have a nature center.

Some 41.5 percent of respondents indicated that they have plans to add features and amenities to their facilities. Respondents from camps and parks were most likely to have such plans, with 61.5 percent of camp respondents and 47.5 percent of park respondents indicating that they have plans to add features. (See Figure 20.)

Splash play areas were most commonly planned by park respondents. Some 28.5 percent of park respondents with plans to add any features to their facilities are planning to add splash play. They were followed by health clubs (24 percent), camps (21.9 percent) and community centers (19.3 percent).

Parks also were most likely to be planning to add playgrounds. More than a quarter (26 percent) of park respondents with plans to add features were planning playgrounds. They were followed by schools (25 percent), YMCAs (23.9 percent), camps (21.9 percent), community centers (12.3 percent) and health clubs (12 percent).

Trails were also the purview of parks, with 26.6 percent of park respondents with plans to add features reporting that they plan to add trails. In addition, 17.7 percent of camp respondents who are planning new features indicated that they will add trails. Park structures and disc golf courses also are most common among parks (26 percent with plans will add park structures, and 22 percent will add disc golf) and camps (12.3 percent and 25 percent, respectively).

More than a quarter of respondents from schools (27.1 percent), colleges (26.4 percent) and YMCAs (26.1 percent) who have plans to add features are planning to add fitness centers. Synthetic turf fields and concessions are also commonly planned among schools and colleges, with 37.5 percent of school respondents who plan to add features planning synthetic turf fields, and 20.8 percent planning concessions, while 30.9 percent of college respondents with plans for new features are planning synthetic turf fields, and 20.9 percent are planning concessions.

Schools also are more likely than other respondents to be planning to add bleachers and seating. More than a third (35.4 percent) of school respondents with plans for new features will be adding bleachers and seating. They're followed by health clubs (16 percent), community centers (15.9 percent) and parks (13.8 percent).

Climbing walls are most commonly planned by colleges, with more than a quarter (25.5 percent) of the college respondents who plan to add new features indicating they are planning climbing walls. They're followed by YMCAs (23.9 percent), camps (21.9 percent), health clubs (20 percent) and community centers (14 percent).

Staffing

On average, respondents to the survey employ 134.2 people. Respondents from YMCAs have the highest number of employees at 258.8, while respondents from community centers have the smallest number of employees at 80.9.

The average respondent employs 26.6 full-time employees, 37.1 part-time employees, 36.4 seasonal employees and 32.6 volunteers. (See Figure 21.)

Schools and school districts had the highest number of full-time employees, averaging 70.8. They were followed distantly by parks respondents, with 27.5 and YMCAs with 25.3 full-time employees. YMCAs had the highest number of part-time employees, with 99.1 on average. They were followed by colleges and universities with 59 and health clubs with 48.8. Parks and recreation agencies relied more heavily than others on seasonal workers with an average of 52.7. They were followed by YMCAs with 48.4 and camps with 42.7. Finally, YMCAs relied far more heavily than other respondents on volunteers, with an average of 85.9 volunteers working at their facilities. They were followed by park agencies, with 53.

In 2011, the majority of respondents (74.8 percent) said they are planning to maintain their current staffing levels. This is an increase from last year, when 73 percent were planning to maintain staff levels. On top of this, fewer respondents this year reported that they are planning to reduce staff. In last year's survey, 15.7 percent of respondents said they were planning to reduce staff. This year, 9.8 percent of respondents indicated they are planning to reduce staff, and 15.4 percent said they were planning to add staff. (See Figure 22.)

On average, respondents with plans to add staff are planning to add 21.6 workers in total: 3 full-time employees, 6.4 part-time employees, 5.2 seasonal employees and 6.4 volunteers.

A majority (87.2 percent) of respondents reported that they currently require at least some of their staff members to be certified in one way or another. There was virtually no change in this number from last year, when 87.1 percent of respondents required certifications. For respondents who do not currently require certifications, 20.4 percent said that they plan to require it in the future. (See Figure 23.)

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to require their employees to be certified, with 97.4 percent of these respondents reporting that they require certification now, and the same number saying they will require it in the future. They were followed by health club respondents, 91.5 percent of whom currently require certification, and park respondents, 90.2 percent of whom require certification. (See Figure 24.)

Respondents from camps were the least likely to report that they require certification now, or that they will require it in the future, though these numbers have dropped substantially from the numbers reported by this cohort last year. While 79.1 percent of this year's respondents currently require certification, 85.2 percent required it last year. And 83.1 percent of this year's respondents from camp facilities said they would require certification in the future, compared with 89.6 percent from this same segment last year.

There was very little change in the types of certification required by respondents, when compared with last year's response. The most commonly required certifications include CPR/AED/First Aid certification (currently required by 84.9 percent of respondents), background checks (78.1 percent), lifeguard certification (59 percent), aquatic management and pool operations certification (33.5 percent) and personal training or fitness certification (29.6 percent). (See Figure 25.)

Programming

Much of the programming currently offered by respondents falls along similar lines to last year's respondents. The vast majority (96.8 percent) of respondents indicated that they offer programming of some kind at their facilities.

The most popular programs, offered by more than half of the survey respondents, include holiday events and other special events (64.3 percent), fitness programs (61.1 percent), educational programs (60.4 percent), day camps and summer camps (56.3 percent); mind-body/balance programs such as yoga, tai chi, Pilates and martial arts (51.4 percent); and youth sports teams (50.7 percent). (See Figure 26.)

Programming choices that showed significant growth from last year include the top three, each of which grew by more than 3 percent. Other programming that took off this year includes mind-body/balance programs, which moved up four spaces in terms of commonality, and also gained 4.2 points, percentagewise. Swimming programming also jumped ahead, moving up two spots in terms of popularity, and gaining 2.1 percentage points. Relatively substantial growth—by at least 2.5 percentage points—was also seen for arts and crafts (up 3 percentage points this year); aquatic exercise (up 3.9 points); environmental education (up 3.3 points); and camping (up 4.5 points). There were no programming categories that saw a decrease in popularity of this degree.

Slightly less than a third (31.9 percent) of respondents indicated that they are planning to add additional programs at their facilities over the next three years. The most common types of programming they are planning to add include:

  1. Fitness programs (planned by 26.8 percent of respondents planning to add programs)
  2. Educational programs (25 percent)
  3. Teen programming (24 percent)
  4. Mind-body/balance programs (22.5 percent)
  5. Active older adults (20.9 percent)
  6. Day camps and summer camps (20.8 percent)
  7. Environmental education (20.3 percent)
  8. Individual sports activities (18.9 percent)
  9. Holiday events and other special events (18.6 percent)
  10. Sports tournaments or races (18 percent)

The top planned programs varied according to the segment of the industry in which respondents work. For example, for parks respondents, the top three planned programs were teen programming, environmental education and fitness programs. In addition, some of the top planned programs at park facilities do not appear on the top 10 list of planned programs for all facility types. These include performing arts programs, special needs programming and adult sports teams.

Among respondents from colleges and universities, day camps and summer camps, fitness programs and mind-body/balance programs, such as yoga, were the top three planned programs. Other programs college respondents are planning to add that do not appear on the top 10 list for all facility types include personal training, climbing programming, sport training and nutrition/diet counseling.

Respondents from schools and school districts listed fitness programs, educational programs and sports tournaments or races as their top three planned programs. Other programs planned for schools that are not common across all respondent types include youth sports teams, sport training, personal training, swimming and daycare or preschool programs.

For health club respondents, programming for active older adults, fitness programming and programs for teens were the top three planned program additions. Other programs planned by health club respondents that are not as common among the entire survey population include nutrition/diet counseling, aquatic exercise, special needs programming, adult sports teams and youth sports teams.

YMCA respondents indicated that programming for teens, nutrition and diet counseling, and performing arts programs were their top three planned program additions for the next three years. In addition, YMCAs differ from the general survey population in that they are more likely to be planning to add adult sports teams, arts and crafts programs, therapeutic programming, sport training and youth sports teams.

For camp respondents, environmental education, educational programs and day camps and summer camps were the top three planned programs. They depart from the general survey population in that these respondents were more likely to be planning to add water sports programs, such as canoeing or kayaking, arts and crafts, climbing, camping and trips.

Respondents from community centers chose fitness programs, programs for active older adults and educational programming as their top three planned additions. Also among their top planned programs were sports tournaments and races, arts and crafts, nutrition/diet counseling, adult sports teams, daycare or preschool programs, and festivals and concerts.

Top Issues

As it generally is, the state of the economy—and the impact that it has on budgets—is the top issue of concern among survey respondents. But there are other issues that tend to be top concerns over time, and these have not shifted in the past year.

The top issue of concern now, other than the economy, is equipment and facility maintenance. It also was chosen as the top concern over the next several years. More than half (54.9 percent) of respondents listed it as a top current concern, and 42.7 percent said it will remain a concern for the next three years. (See Figure 27.)

Upon reviewing respondents' comments expanding on the issues that are among their top concerns, the divisions between one topic of concern and another are murky. That is, almost everything ties back to the economy and the impact the downturn has had on budgets. This ultimately affects a facility's ability to properly maintain its equipment, to keep quality staff on board, to deliver programs to members and so on.

When it comes to equipment and facility maintenance, for example, several readers pointed out that maintenance cannot be deferred indefinitely. You can't stop buildings and equipment from aging. There's no way to avoid it, but providing up front for maintenance, instead of waiting for failure, is key. Unfortunately, many budgets have been cut deeply enough to make maintenance impossible.

As one reader pointed out, "Historically funding entities do not adequately fund the maintenance/operation side. The down economy will only increase pressure on already tight operating budgets."


"We have a number of older facilities that are in serious need of building equipment upgrades or risk failure of the equipment," another commented. "With the current local economic conditions, I am concerned about being able to budget dollars to make the needed upgrades/replacements."

Others put it simply. As one reader said, "Funding cuts have delayed most preventive, needed remedial maintenance." Another said, "Without funding, deferred maintenance will become a norm, and facilities and equipment will deteriorate."

Staffing issues were chosen as a top current concern by 42.3 percent of respondents, and 36.2 percent said it will continue to be a concern over the next three years. Staffing concerns ranged from the ability to find—or keep—quality staff to the inability to compensate staff adequately.

"It is always hard to find good people for the job," one respondent lamented. Another pointed to "continued reductions in staffing" as a major issue, adding, "Reduced staffing will continue to erode programming and facility maintenance."

Many respondents were concerned about recent cutbacks in staff or in staff salaries and benefits.

"We have had to cut back on staff salaries and hours just to make ends meet," one respondent said. "If things don't get better, we will be looking at high health care costs and risk management costs. Facilities need to be staffed at appropriate levels to not only provide the best quality programs and services, but also to keep facilities in the best working condition (the integrity of the facility itself)."

"Our staff has not had a raise in three years," another respondent said. "As other entities are starting to give increases again, we are not. I'm afraid we are going to lose our top performers."

Several readers were worried about the impending retirement of many of their employees, as well. One reader reported that 50 percent of the staff would be eligible for retirement within two to three years. Another said, "Staffing is the greatest concern as current mid-management is nearing retirement age. Municipality is not hiring entry-level employees to be mentored and trained as was done in the past. I began as a summer seasonal at 19, trained by superiors, and 32 years later, I'm ready to retire with no underlings ready to take over the ranks. The career line is not clear for new hires, so the dedication, loyalty and commitment are not exhibited because they don't know if they have a career to look forward to."

Marketing and increasing participation is a top concern for 39.1 percent of respondents now, and 33.9 percent said it will be a top concern over the next several years. The economy has had a major affect on participation, as many people have less money to spend on fitness, recreation and sports programs. "People are cutting back on discretionary spending and may or may not use our services," one respondent stated.

Other readers pointed to the need to build participation in programs to bring in additional funds.

Several respondents also pointed to the rise of social media and electronic marketing as presenting a challenge. "With all the emphasis on social media and the member of today so time-consumed, finding the right way to keep them engaged at the club becomes a big challenge," one reported. Another said, "With everything going electronic, we have to change the way we market to people. With such a large spectrum of participants, it is hard to reach everyone, Therefore we must market to each generation differently."

Safety and risk management was chosen as a top concern by 36.6 percent of respondents now, and another quarter (24.2 percent) listed it as an ongoing concern for the next three years. Once again, the issue is interconnected with others, including budgetary concerns and staffing worries. "Safety will become a major concern as we continue to work with less staff and maintenance of facilities is deferred because of a lack of man hours," one respondent said. Another commented, "Keeping the facility maintained properly with the same budgeting as previously and with less assistance by city/schools."

For 28.8 percent of respondents, creating new and innovative programming is a top concern now. More respondents consider this an ongoing concern—33.6 percent said it will be a concern for their facilities over the next three years. One respondent pointed out that programming is an essential link in the chain, leading to improved attendance and revenue, while also increasing the need for maintenance. This respondent called programming "… the basis for attendance, revenue, maintenance needs, etc. We strive to increase programs, but need to be aware of the drain on already-stretched resources."

Other issues showing increasing levels of worry over the next several years include legislative issues, a top current concern for 17.5 percent of respondents, and a concern over the next three years for 18.6 percent; environmental issues, a top concern now for 15 percent and an ongoing issue for 18.8 percent; and fitness and wellness for older adults, a top current concern for 12.5 percent and a concern over the next three years for 14.5 percent.

Many respondents were concerned that increasing legislation and regulations are affecting their ability to deliver recreation to the community. One said, "Legislative issues seem to be hampering our ability to rationally do our jobs. VGB is a perfect example, as is the new ADA."

Others were more concerned about the current economic debates going on in government at all levels. One reader was concerned about the impact of "…proposals to freeze government spending at current levels for the next five years."

Environmental and conservation concerns also led respondents to muse about budgetary concerns. One respondent worried that as their organization worked toward sustainability, their older facility would be more costly as they tried to keep up with the "green movement."

Another respondent pointed to the effect of environmental concerns as new facilities are developed and existing facilities continue to be used. "As we continue to develop new park locations and facilities, along with maintaining the existing infrastructure we have, we must take into consideration storm water, LEED practices, watershed and many properties that exist along adjacent waterways. Into programming, this same theme overlaps, looking at items like nature and play, outdoor initiative programming, etc."

Accessibility and availability saw an increasing level of concern over last year's response. Last year, 10.3 percent of respondents listed accessibility as a top issue for their facilities, and this year, 13.1 percent labeled it a top concern, likely driven by updates to Access Guidelines as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which may affect how many facilities do business.

Despite the many concerns listed by respondents, the economy continues to be the overarching concern, as evidenced by many respondents' comments. Many of their concerns reached beyond simple budgeting to the way people think about recreation in general.

One respondent was concerned about "the economy and a new philosophy that government shouldn't be in the business of providing parks and recreation programs, after-school programs and senior nutrition/transportation programs." This respondent stated that this philosophy would lead to cutbacks in programs that are effective in keeping high-risk youth out of gangs.

Another respondent pointed to the importance of "ensuring the public recognizes the importance of park and recreation opportunities as a quality-of-life component and valued service for the area in which they choose to live, work and play."



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