Regional Information

A Look at Regional Trends

Over the past several years, we have seen the impact of the Great Recession on revenues, spending, hiring and construction plans at recreation, sports and fitness facilities. This year, the numbers begin to appear slightly more stable, though many of the numbers related to spending appear a bit below numbers from before the recession. While it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, it appears as though the industry is settling into a new normal.

That said, there are many factors that could have a dramatic affect on the state of the industry—from budgets at the local, state and federal level to fluctuations in consumer spending, the implementation of the new healthcare law and more.

The most recent numbers from the National Association of State Budget Officers forecast that total general fund revenues at the state level will move beyond peak levels from before the recession in 2013 for the first time since the recession began. But, according to Scott Pattison, executive director of the NASBO, general funds are still not back to where they "need to be." He warned, "Money is going to be tight for the foreseeable future, for several years at least, no matter what happens."

In addition, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, state and local government spending grew at a 0.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2012, following 11 straight quarters of contraction.

As local and state spending continues to return to normal, there are still many issues that are depressing spending. Education (both K-12 and higher education) and healthcare represent the two biggest pieces of state spending, according to NASBO, and as these costs continue to increase, other portions of the budget—which can include parks and recreation, grants and more—will likely take the hit.

In this section, we'll take a look at how facilities differ according to the region in which they are found. While this information will be less specific than a state-by-state analysis, it does provide a picture of differences and similarities across the regions of the United States.

Once again, with the exception of the Midwest, Industry Report survey respondents largely represent the regional breakdown according to the most recent Census Bureau numbers from 2010. According to the U.S. Census, 17.9 percent of the U.S. population lives in the Northeast, 21.7 percent in the Midwest, 19.4 percent in the South Atlantic states, 17.7 percent in the South Central states, and 23.3 percent in the West. In 2013, 16.5 percent of survey respondents live in the Northeast, 29.2 percent in the Midwest, 19.6 percent in the South Atlantic region, 13.6 percent in the South Central region and 20.3 percent in the West. Another 0.7 percent of respondents are located outside of the United States.

The community types represented vary a great deal according to region. In the Northeast, more than half of respondents (51.3 percent) are from suburban communities. This compared with 39.9 percent of South Central respondents, 38.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents, 38 percent of Midwestern respondents and 36.6 percent of Western respondents. Some 40.7 percent of Midwestern respondents call rural communities home, compared with 35.1 percent in the South Central states, 32.2 percent in the West, 30.2 percent in the Northeast and 28.5 percent in the South Atlantic region. Finally, 32.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents hail from urban communities, compared with 31.3 percent in the West, 25 percent in the South Central region, 21.3 percent in the Midwest and 18.5 percent in the Northeast.

Public organizations were more likely to be found in the Midwest than in other regions, with 30.6 percent of public respondents indicating they were from that region. It was followed by the West (21.6 percent) and the South Atlantic region (19.2 percent). Respondents from public organizations were far less likely to be from the Northeast or the South Central states, with just 14.7 percent and 13.4 percent of public organization respondents, respectively, indicating they came from those regions.

Private for-profit organizations were more heavily weighted toward the West, Northeast and South Atlantic regions. More than a quarter (26 percent) of private for-profit respondents were from the West, while 21.9 percent were from the Northeast and 20.5 percent were from the South Atlantic states. Just 18.6 percent of private for-profit respondents were from the Midwest, and 10.7 percent were from the South Central states.


Private nonprofit organizations, on the other hand, were most likely to be found in the Midwest, with 30.2 percent of private nonprofit respondents indicating they called this region home. They were followed by the South Atlantic (20.8 percent) and Northeast (19.6 percent). Less than 15 percent of private nonprofit respondents were from the West (14.1 percent) and South Central states (14.8 percent).

Different regions were also weighted more or less heavily toward specific types of facilities. Though parks and recreation was dominant in all regions, this type of facility was far more prevalent among respondents from the West, where 45.7 percent of respondents work for parks, and South Atlantic, with 42.6 percent. By comparison, less than one-third of respondents from the Midwest (33.1 percent) and South Central region (32 percent) were from parks. (See Figure 29.)

When it comes to other facility types, respondents in the Northeast were most likely to represent colleges and universities (16.4 percent) and schools and school districts (13 percent). Those in the Midwest were most likely to represent schools (17.7 percent) and colleges (14.8 percent). In the South Atlantic, respondents were most likely to be from colleges (14.4 percent) or from youth and private camps, campgrounds and RV parks (6.2 percent). In the South Central region, respondents were more likely than any other region to be from colleges (21.3 percent). Another 13.7 percent were from schools. Finally, in the West, some 8.6 percent of respondents were from colleges, while 7 percent were from camps.

All facility types were most likely to be found in the Midwest. More than one-quarter (25.9 percent) of parks respondents were from the Midwest, followed by the West (24.7 percent), the South Atlantic (22.4 percent), the Northeast (15.1 percent) and the South Central region (11.7 percent).

Nearly three in 10 college respondents (29.4 percent) were from the Midwest. Less than two in 10 were from the South Central region (19.8 percent), South Atlantic (19.2 percent), Northeast (18.5 percent) or West (11.8 percent).

Schools respondents were more likely than any others to be from the Midwest, with a full 45.6 percent of these respondents calling that region home. Far fewer schools respondents were from the Northeast (19.1 percent), the South Central region (16.6 percent), the West (11.8 percent) or the South Atlantic (7.5 percent).

Among YMCA respondents, 29.4 percent called the Midwest home, compared with 25.2 percent in the Northeast, 21 percent in the South Atlantic, 13.4 percent in the West, and 10.9 percent in the South Central region.

Camp respondents were again most likely to be from the Midwest, with 31 percent, followed by the West (23.3 percent), South Atlantic (20.2 percent), Northeast (15.5 percent) and South Central region (10.1 percent).

Finally, 29 percent of community center respondents were from the Midwest, followed relatively closely by 25.3 percent who called the West their home. Fewer community center respondents were from the South Atlantic states (16 percent), the Northeast (15.4 percent) or the South Central region (11.7 percent).

There was not a great deal of variance from one region to the next in the average number of facilities managed by respondents. Across all respondents, that number is 6.8. Those in the South Central states manage the largest number of facilities on average, with 7.7. Respondents in the Midwest manage the fewest, with an average of six.

A majority of respondents in all regions indicated that they form partnerships outside their organizations to enhance their operations, programming, marketing, fundraising efforts and more. Those in the West were the most likely to form such partnerships, with a full 87.1 percent of respondents in that region indicating they had done so. They were followed by the Midwest (86.6 percent) and South Atlantic (86.4 percent. Slightly fewer in the South Central and Northeastern region reported forming partnerships, with 83.4 percent and 79.7 percent, respectively, indicating they had done so.

Not only were respondents from the West most likely to form partnerships with other facilities, but they were the most likely to form partnerships with nearly every type of facility covered in the survey, including local schools, local government, nonprofit organizations, state government, corporate or local businesses, federal government, healthcare facilities and private health clubs. There were only three exceptions. Respondents from the South Atlantic were the most likely to partner with YMCAs and military organizations than respondents in other regions. And respondents from the South Central region were more likely than respondents in other regions to partner with colleges and universities.

There also was variation across the regions in the primary audience served by facilities in our survey. Respondents in the West and Midwest were much more likely than those in the South Central states to indicate that they served all ages. Some 44.9 percent of respondents in the West and 43.3 percent in the Midwest reported that they served all ages, compared with less than one-third (32.8 percent) of South Central respondents. Likewise, almost twice as many respondents in the South Atlantic (22 percent) served adults compared with the Northeast (11.2 percent). On the other hand 20.1 percent in the Northeast served school-age children, compared with just 11.5 percent in the Midwest. Those whose primary audience was college students were more likely to be found in the South Central region, where 17.9 percent of respondents called that their primary audience. Likewise, this region was most likely to serve teens as its primary audience—a full 13.8 percent of South Central respondents said teens were their main patrons, compared with just 6.2 percent of respondents in the South Atlantic.

Usage & Budgets

When it comes to the number of people using their facilities, respondents from the West were the most likely to report that usage had increased from 2011 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2013, at their facilities. (See Figure 30.) Some 57.2 percent of respondents in the West said usage at their facilities had increased from 2011 to 2012, and 58.9 percent expect another increase in 2013. They were followed by the South Atlantic, where 55.2 percent and 57.2 percent of respondents reported increased usage in 2012 and 2013, respectively. In 2014, respondents from the South Atlantic are most likely to expect increases in the number of people using their facilities. Some 57.2 percent of South Atlantic respondents expect an increase in that time period.


Respondents from the Northeast were the least likely to expect increases in usage in every year covered by the study, with 48.4 percent reporting an increase from 2011 to 2012, 50.6 percent expecting an increase in 2013 and just 45.6 percent projecting an increase in 2014.

Respondents from the West were the most likely to indicate that revenues had grown from 2011 to 2012. They also were the most likely to expect revenues to rise from 2012 to 2013. Some 43.3 percent said revenues had increased from 2011 to 2012, and 45.7 percent said revenues had increased from 2012 to 2013. By 2014, they are overtaken by the South Atlantic region. Some 48.4 percent of South Atlantic respondents expect revenues to increase from 2013 to 2014, compared with 45.9 percent in the West. Respondents from the South Atlantic were the second most likely to report revenue increases in 2012 (43.2 percent) and in 2013 (44.9 percent).

Respondents from the South Central states were the least likely to expect increases in revenues in every year covered by the survey. Just 36.6 percent in this region saw their revenues increase from 2011 to 2012, and 41.5 percent expect increases in 2013, while 40.1 percent expect increases in 2014.

Respondents in the Northeast were the most likely to report that revenues had dropped in 2012, with 18.1 percent of Northeastern respondents indicating their revenues had fallen from 2011 to 2012.

Respondents in the West had the highest average operating expenditure of all respondents for fiscal 2012, a full 10.5 percent higher than the across-the-board average, at $1,609,000. They were followed closely by the South Atlantic region, whose average operating expenditures were 10.4 percent above average at $1,608,000. In the other regions, respondents' average operating expenses were lower than the across-the-board average. Some 6.7 percent lower for the Northeast and South Central states, and 7.3 percent lower for the Midwest. (See Figure 31.)


That said, respondents in the Northeast actually saw the greatest increase from 2011 to 2012 in their operating expenditures. In that region, operating costs rose 9.8 percent in that time frame. No other region reported an increase from 2011 to 2012. The greatest decrease in that time frame was seen in the South Central states, where respondents' operating expenditures fell by 17.2 percent from 2011 to 2012. They were followed by the South Atlantic, with a 9.9 percent decrease, the West (9.3 percent) and the Midwest (4 percent).

Between 2012 and 2014, every region projects operating expenditures will increase, with the greatest increase reported in the Northeast, at 7.9 percent. More modest increases are expected in the Midwest (4.4 percent) and South Atlantic region (4.1 percent), while those in the South Central states and Western states are expecting rather slight increases, of 1.9 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

While a majority of all respondents reported they had taken action to reduce operating expenditures at their facilities, those in the West were the most likely to indicate they had done so. Some 90.7 percent of respondents in the West had taken action to reduce expenditures. They were followed by the Midwest, where 89.5 percent had taken action to reduce expenditures. Respondents in the South Central region were the least likely to report that they had reduced their expenditures. Less than four out of five (79.3 percent) had done so. Some 84.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 82.9 percent of Northeastern respondents had taken action to reduce expenditures.

Likewise, respondents from the West were the most likely to have taken nearly every kind of action measured to reduce their expenditures. They were the most likely to have improved energy efficiency (58.9 percent), reduced staff (50.6 percent), increased fees (48.7 percent), cut programs or services (33.5 percent), reduced hours of operation (31.1 percent), shortened their season (17.1 percent) or closed facilities (11.6 percent). The only exception was putting construction plans on hold, which was most likely among respondents from the South Atlantic, where 37.8 percent indicated they had done so.

At the same time, respondents from the South Central states were the least likely to have engaged in most of these activities. They were the least likely to have improved energy efficiency (49 percent), reduced staff (34.8 percent), increased fees (31.7 percent), cut programs and services (21 percent) or reduced their hours of operation (17.9 percent). Those in the Midwest were the least likely to have put their construction or renovation plans on hold (31.9 percent) or shortened their season of operation (6.7 percent). And those in the Northeast were the least likely to have closed facilities (5.2 percent) to reduce operating costs.

Construction Plans

In every region, respondents in 2013 were more likely to indicate that they had construction plans over the next three years than respondents in 2012. Those from the South Central region were the most likely to have construction plans of some kind. Nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents in this region had plans for construction. They were followed by respondents from the South Atlantic region (65.4 percent), the Northeast (64 percent) and the Midwest (60.9 percent). Respondents in the West were least likely to have construction plans, though 58.7 percent indicated that they were planning to build new, make additions or renovate their existing facilities over the next three years. (See Figure 32.)


Respondents in the South Central states were the most likely to be planning new construction. Some 28.2 percent of respondents in that region said they were planning new construction, compared with less than one-quarter in every other region. Respondents from the South Atlantic were least likely to be planning new construction, with just 22.7 percent.

Respondents in the Northeast were most likely to be planning to make additions to their existing facilities. Nearly three out of 10 (29.2 percent) respondents in this region said they would be making additions. They were followed by the South Central region, with 28.9 percent. Respondents in the West were least likely to be planning additions, at 23.8 percent.

Respondents in the Northeast were also the most likely to be planning to renovate their existing facilities. Nearly half (49 percent) of Northeastern respondents said they'd be undertaking renovations in the next few years, compared with 46.1 percent in the South Atlantic, 45 percent in the Midwest and South Central regions, and 43.6 percent in the West.

For most regions, the amount budgeted for facility construction grows from 2011 to 2013. Respondents in the South Atlantic region are the exception to this rule. (See Figure 33.)


The greatest increase in construction budgets from 2011 to 2013 is found among respondents in the South Central states, where the amount planned for construction increased by 49.1 percent from $3,381,000 in 2011 to $5,042,000 in 2013. They were followed by respondents in the West, who reported a 16.5 percent increase from $4,035,000 in 2011 to $4,702,000 in 2013.

More subtle increases are reported among respondents in the Northeast, at 8.3 percent, and the Midwest, at 2.9 percent. Meanwhile, in the South Atlantic states, respondents' construction budgets fell by 25.6 percent from 2011 to 2013, from $4,437,000 to $3,300,000.

The types of features that are more likely to be found in some regions than others showcase how different the recreation, sports and fitness market can be depending on where you are. In some cases, it's a simple matter of climate. For example, indoor aquatic facilities might be expected to be more prevalent where it's cold. Likewise with ice rinks and winter recreation facilities. At the same time, some of the variance simply highlights the region where certain ideas first took hold—such as with skateparks and dog parks, which first became popular in the Western states.

Respondents in the Northeast were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included natural turf sports fields (61.4 percent), outdoor sports courts (59.3 percent), indoor aquatic facilities (33.5 percent), synthetic turf fields (26.4 percent), climbing walls (20.5 percent), nature centers (13.1 percent) and challenge courses or ropes courses (12.5 percent).

In the Midwest, respondents were more likely than other regions to include locker rooms (67.1 percent), bleachers and seating (64.8 percent), indoor sports courts (56.5 percent), fitness centers (53.7 percent), indoor tracks (27.7 percent), outdoor tracks (27.4 percent), childcare centers (22.8 percent), ice rinks (16.3 percent), waterparks (12 percent) and skiing or winter recreation areas (9.5 percent).

Respondents from the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included classrooms and meeting rooms (63.3 percent), playgrounds (55.1 percent), exercise studios (48.4 percent) or waterfronts and marinas (20.8 percent).

In the South Central states, respondents were more likely than others to include concessions (64.4 percent), disc golf courses (20.4 percent) or amusements and arcades (5 percent).

Finally, in the West respondents were more likely than those in other regions to include as part of their facilities park structures (55.1 percent), open spaces (54.9 percent), community centers (46.5 percent), trails (46.3 percent), outdoor aquatic facilities (39.6 percent), skateparks (27.7 percent), splash play areas (20.3 percent), dog parks (21.5 percent), golf courses (17.4 percent), campgrounds (15 percent) or bike/BMX parks (6.9 percent).

(Turn to Figure 20 on page 24 to easily compare these regional number with the amenities and features included in facilities in all regions.)

The features that showed the greatest difference across regions were skateparks. Some 17.2 percent more respondents in the West included skateparks as part of their facilities than in the South Central region, where only 10.5 percent included skateparks. After skateparks, the features showing the greatest difference from region to region included concession areas (64.4 percent in the South Central states included them vs. 47.5 percent in the West); community centers (46.5 percent in the West vs. 30 percent in the Northeast); outdoor aquatic facilities (39.6 percent in the West vs. 24 percent in the Northeast); dog parks (21.5 percent in the West vs. 6.2 percent in the Northeast); and ice rinks (16.3 percent in the Midwest vs. 1 percent in the South Central region).

Just as in 2012, respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to indicate that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. Some 40.3 percent of South Atlantic respondents indicated they had such plans. They were more likely than respondents from other regions to be planning to add indoor sports courts, community centers, waterparks and indoor aquatic facilities.

Some 39.1 percent of respondents in the Northeast reported that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add trails, synthetic turf fields, playgrounds, fitness centers, bleachers and seating, open spaces, climbing walls, classrooms and meeting rooms, exercise studio rooms, concessions, natural turf fields, outdoor sport courts, locker rooms, indoor tracks, outdoor tracks and childcare centers.

Some 38.1 percent of respondents in the Midwest have plans to add features at their facilities. They are more likely than other regions to be planning to add dog parks and nature centers.

Likewise, 38.1 percent of respondents in the South Central states are planning to add features. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add splash play areas, disc golf courses and skateparks.

Finally, respondents in the West were least likely to be planning to add features. Some 37.6 percent of them had plans to add features at their facilities. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add park structures such as shelters and restrooms, challenge courses and ropes courses, bike or BMX parks, and outdoor aquatic facilities.

Programming

Respondents from the West were the most likely to offer many specific types of programming, including: holiday events & other special events; fitness programs; educational programs; mind-body/balance programs such as yoga and tai chi; arts and crafts; programs for active older adults; individual sports activities; aquatic exercise programs; teen programming; performing arts; personal training; festivals and concerts; daycare or preschool; special needs programs; environmental education; camping; therapeutic programs; and climbing programs.

Respondents from the Northeast were more likely than those in other regions to report that they provided: day camps and summer camps; swimming programs; adult sports teams; sport training; and trips.

In the Midwest, respondents were more likely than those from other regions to report that they include youth sports teams, and sports tournaments or races.

South Atlantic respondents were more likely than other regions to include nutrition and diet counseling and water sports.

Interestingly, there was no type of program that was more prevalent in the South Central states than elsewhere. In fact, South Central respondents were the least likely to offer nearly every sort of programming included in the survey. The only exceptions were youth sports teams (least likely to be found in the South Atlantic states), and personal training and camping (least likely to be found in the Northeast).

Respondents from the West were the most likely to be planning to add more programming over the next three years, closely followed by respondents from the South Central region.

Some 32.1 percent of Western respondents will be adding programs. Their top five planned additions include: educational programs; mind-body/balance programs such as yoga, tai chi and Pilates; teen programming; fitness programs; and holiday events and other special events.

Some 32 percent of South Central respondents have plans to add programs. The top five programs they are planning to add include: educational programs; fitness programs; mind-body/balance programs; day camps and summer camps; and sport training.

More than three out of 10 (30.6 percent) respondents in the Northeast have plans to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. Their top five planned programs include: educational programs; mind-body/balance programs; environmental education; fitness programs; and day camps and summer camps.

Some 30.3 percent of respondents in the South Atlantic states reported they have plans to add programs. Their top five planned programs include: teen programming; programs for active older adults; day camps and summer camps; holiday events and other special events; and fitness programs.

Finally, respondents in the Midwest were least likely to be planning program additions over the next three years. That said, more than a quarter (28 percent) of respondents in the Midwest do plan to add programs. The top five programs they are planning to add include: educational programs; fitness programs; mind-body/balance programs; day camps and summer camps; and holiday events and other special events.

Interestingly, despite the fact that they already are the most likely to offer most types of programming, respondents from the West are also the most likely to be planning to add almost every type of program covered. The exceptions are environmental education and special needs programs, which are most commonly planned in the Northeast; sports tournaments and races, and water sports, which are more commonly planned in the South Atlantic region; and educational programs, fitness programs, sport training and swimming, more commonly planned in the South Central states.



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