2015 State of the Industry

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

By Emily Tipping

As the economy continues to bump and grind its way back to a state of normalcy, the results of our annual survey on the State of the Industry continue to show a return to positive growth for managed recreation, sports and fitness facilities. From growing plans for construction and increasing revenues, to a prolonged drop in the number of people planning to reduce staff, to operating budgets that are feeling less of a pinch, things have been gradually brightening over the past couple of years.

Welcome to your ninth annual State of the Industry Report. In these pages, we delve into the detailed responses garnered from our annual survey to help illustrate a more detailed view of the trends that affect facility construction, programming, operations, staffing and much more. The information collected within these 88 pages is based on our in-depth survey of more than 2,300 professionals working in recreation, sports and fitness facilities.

Before we begin, let me take a minute to extend our deep appreciation for everyone who took the time to answer our more than 50 questions about the inner workings of their facilities now, and how they expect to fare over the next several years. We could not put together a report of this scope without your assistance, and we want you to know that your continuing—and growing!—support for this project means the world.

As we do each June, in this issue we'll report the results of this survey to you, summarizing how things are going, beginning with the broader results from the entire survey population. In the following sections, we'll break down some of the results to give a more detailed view based on region of the country, followed by information on aquatic facilities, park districts and departments, colleges and universities, schools and school districts, health clubs and YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs. You'll find even more information in our special web-exclusive reports, which will cover camps, community centers and golf facilities, online at www.recmanagement.com

Who Are You?

The majority of survey respondents, like the readers of Recreation Management magazine, represent leadership within their organizations. Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of respondents said that their job title was "director." Another 20.8 percent are in administration management, which includes titles such as administrator, manager and superintendent. Some 16.4 percent of respondents are operations/facility managers, with titles including operations manager, facility manager, building manager or supervisor. Some 12.3 percent of respondents are in program and activity administration, which includes titles such as activity or program director, manager, coordinator, specialist, coach or instructor. Less than one in 10 (8.6 percent) said they are the chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner of their organization. Just 1 percent of respondents are in service roles, including planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 8.7 percent represent "other" roles.

In addition to being the decision-makers in their organizations, survey respondents also report having more than two decades of experience in the industry. In fact, on average, respondents have 21.3 years of industry experience, and an average of 11.3 years in their current position.

In 2015, survey respondents were more likely to be from the Midwest than any other region. Some 30.7 percent of survey respondents hail from the Midwest, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (See Figure 1.)

The second largest region in terms of representation in the survey was the West, which is home to 20.4 percent of our survey respondents. This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

There was a slight increase in the number of survey respondents representing the South Atlantic states in 2015. Last year, 17 percent of respondents were from the South Atlantic. In 2015, some 18.7 percent of respondents reported from Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

The Northeast also saw slightly higher representation in 2015 compared with 2014. Last year, 15.4 percent of respondents were from the Northeast. This year, 17.4 percent of respondents are from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Representation in the South Central states fell from 15.1 percent in 2014 to 12.4 percent in this year's survey. These respondents are from Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Finally, just 0.4 percent of respondents to the survey reported that they were from outside the United States.

While there was a slight jump in the percentage of respondents from suburban communities in 2015 compared with 2014, overall, the number of respondents from different types of communities continues to hold steady over time. The largest number of respondents were from suburban communities (42.3 percent, compared with 38.9 percent in 2014). They were followed by those from rural communities at 33.8 percent. Just under a quarter (23.9 percent) of respondents indicated they were from urban communities. (See Figure 2.)

There also was little change in the types of organizations represented by survey respondents. Nearly two-thirds (65.1 percent) of respondents reported that they worked for public organizations, such as parks and recreation departments, and public schools and universities. They were followed by those who work for private nonprofit organizations. Some 21.8 percent indicated they work for a private nonprofit, such as a YMCA. Finally, about 12.2 percent indicated they work for private, for-profit organizations, such as health clubs or resorts. (See Figure 3.)

As in past surveys, the largest percentage of respondents reported in from parks and recreation departments, park districts and similar organizations. Some 38.7 percent of respondents indicated that they worked for parks and recreation organizations. They were followed by respondents from colleges and universities (13.8 percent); schools and school districts (9.3 percent); campgrounds, RV parks, and private/youth camps (7.5 percent); community or private recreation or sports centers (7.3 percent); and YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys and Girls Clubs (5.8 percent). Smaller numbers of respondents reported in from other facility types, including: golf/country clubs (3.3 percent); sports, health and fitness clubs (3.2 percent); resorts and resort hotels (2 percent); and waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.3 percent). Less than one in 100 respondents were from medical fitness and wellness facilities (0.9 percent); military installations (0.8 percent); ice rinks (0.6 percent); racquet/tennis clubs (0.5 percent); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.4 percent); and corporate recreation and sports centers (0.3 percent). Some 4.2 percent of respondents indicated that they represent "other" types of facilities, which include such organizations as homeowners associations, churches and more. (See Figure 4.)

As might be expected, some types of facilities tend to be found more in some types of communities than others. For example, respondents from camps and campgrounds are far more likely to report from rural communities. Some 68.4 percent of camp respondents indicated they were in rural communities. School respondents also were more likely to be from rural communities than from urban or suburban areas. Some 49.1 percent of school respondents said they were in rural communities. Respondents from health clubs were least likely to report from rural areas. Only 21.6 percent of health club respondents said they were located in rural communities.

College respondents were more likely to report from urban areas than from the suburbs or from rural communities. Some 40.4 percent of college respondents indicated they were in urban communities. Far fewer respondents from other facility types indicated that they were located in urban areas. After colleges, community and private recreation and sports centers were the most likely to report in from urban communities, with 25.7 percent of these respondents indicating they were located in urban areas. YMCAs were also more heavily represented by urban respondents than other facility types, with 24.3 percent of YMCA respondents reporting form urban communities.

Those who were most likely to be reporting from the suburbs, on the other hand, included golf and country clubs (63.6 percent are from suburban communities); sports and health clubs (60.8 percent); parks (47.6 percent); YMCAs (45.6 percent); and community or private sports and recreation centers (45 percent).

Obviously, certain facility types are much more likely to be public organizations, while others are much more likely to be private nonprofits or for-profit organizations.

Overwhelmingly, parks respondents indicated that they work for public organizations. Some 98 percent of parks respondents said they worked for public organizations. Another 1.6 percent said they worked for private nonprofits. Also likely to report from public organizations were schools and school districts. Some 89.8 percent of these respondents were from public organizations, while 7.9 percent worked for private nonprofits. Nearly three out of five (59.9 percent) of college respondents also said they worked for public organizations, with 32 percent indicating they were with private nonprofits.

Respondents from YMCAs and similar organizations were more likely than others to indicate that they worked for a private nonprofit. Some 93.4 percent of YMCA respondents said they were with a private nonprofit organization. Others who were more likely to report from private nonprofits included camps and campgrounds (52.3 percent of whom were with private nonprofits).

Sports and health clubs were the most likely to report that they were with for-profit organizations. More than two-thirds (68.5 percent) of health club respondents said they were with for-profit organizations. Others who were more likely to report from for-profit organizations included golf clubs and country clubs and campgrounds and camps.

On average, survey respondents manage 6.6 facilities, which is consistent with the past two years when respondents managed an average of 6.4 facilities (2014) and 6.8 (2013). More than three out of five (60.1 percent) of respondents actually manage between one and three facilities. On the other hand, 17.3 percent manage 10 or more facilities. (See Figure 5.)

As one might expect, respondents from urban and suburban communities report that they average a larger number of facilities than their rural counterparts. Urban respondents manage an average of 8.7 facilities, followed by suburban respondents, who manage an average of 6.7. Rural respondents manage 5.2 facilities, on average. Nearly a quarter (23.6 percent) of urban respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, compared with 55.9 percent who manage three or fewer. For suburban respondents, some 17.8 percent manage 10 or more facilities, and 59.2 percent manage three or fewer. And among rural respondents, some 12 percent manage 10 or more facilities, with 64.1 percent managing three or fewer.

Parks respondents again reported managing the largest number of facilities, on average, at 9.9. (See Figure 6.) They were far more likely than other respondents to report that they managed more than 10 facilities. Some 28.9 percent of parks respondents indicate that they manage 10 or more facilities, while 40.3 percent indicated they manage three or fewer. Respondents from schools and school districts also reported managing a higher number of facilities than other respondents, with an average of 7.6

Respondents from health clubs manage the smallest average number of facilities, at 3.1. Nearly three-quarters (72.6 percent) of health club respondents said they manage only a single facility. Community and private recreation and sports center respondents also were less likely to manage a large number of facilities. On average, these respondents manage 3.5 facilities, and 63.5 percent said they manage just a single facility.

A majority of respondents (85.6 percent) report that they partner with outside organizations, a slight increase from last year. Many organizations find such partnerships useful as a means to extend programming opportunities, funding possibilities and even to share facilities to expand their reach.

The most common partnerships were formed between respondents and local schools. Some 59.1 percent of respondents said they had partnered with local schools, up from 56.9 percent in 2014. (See Figure 7.) Other common partners included local government (48.8 percent of respondents partnered with local government), and nonprofit organizations (45.8 percent). More than one-third of respondents also indicated that they had partnered with corporate or local businesses (34.1 percent) and colleges and universities (34.1 percent).

Respondents from urban communities were most likely to report that they formed partnerships with outside organizations. Some 87.7 percent of urban respondents said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 85.3 percent of suburban respondents and 82.7 percent of rural respondents.

Urban respondents were more likely than their suburban and rural counterparts to join up with every type of partner covered in the survey, except for local schools and private health clubs, who were more common partners for suburban respondents. More than half of urban respondents partnered with local schools (59.7 percent); local government (51.4 percent) or nonprofit organizations (51.4 percent). And more than one-third of urban respondents partnered with colleges and universities (46.6 percent); corporate or local businesses (38.6 percent); and state government (35.6 percent). Urban respondents were also much more likely than their counterparts to join up with YMCAs, with 25.6 percent indicating they had done so, compared with 18 percent of suburban respondents and 13.6 percent of rural respondents.

Respondents from YMCAs, parks and schools were more likely than others to report that they formed partnerships. Some 99.3 percent of YMCA respondents, 94.8 percent of park respondents and 89.7 percent of school respondents reported forming such partnerships. (See Figure 8.)

YMCAs were more likely than others to partner with local schools (83 percent of Ys had formed such partnerships), nonprofit organizations (80.7 percent), other YMCAs (61.5 percent), corporate or local businesses (60.7 percent), health care facilities (54.1 percent), military (34.1 percent), and the federal government (28.9 percent). Parks respondents were more likely than others to partner with local government (68.5 percent of parks respondents had done so). Schools were more likely than others to partner with state government (49.5 percent of school respondents had formed such partnerships).

Camps and health clubs were the least likely to report that they had formed partnerships, though a majority did so. Some 72.5 percent of camp respondents and 73 percent of health club respondents indicated that they do form partnerships. The most common partners for camps include nonprofit organizations (52.3 percent of camps partner with them); local schools (32.2 percent); and colleges and universities (27 percent). For health club respondents, the most common partners include corporate or local businesses (51.4 percent of health club respondents partner with them), local schools (36.5 percent) and health care or medical facilities (31.1 percent).

For the largest percentage of survey respondents, the primary audience served by their facilities is of no specific age. Some 41.8 percent of respondents said their facilities serve all ages. Another 17.2 percent said they serve adults ages 19 to 64, and the same number (17.2 percent) said children ages 4 to 12 were their primary audience. More than one in 10 (11.9 percent) indicated that college students are their primary audience, and slightly less (8.8 percent) said teens ages 13 to 18 are their primary audience. Just 2.3 percent indicated that seniors 65 and older are their main facility users, and 0.3 percent serve infants and toddlers younger than 4 years old. (See Figure 9.)

Because of the predominance of different types of respondents in different sizes of communities, the primary audience served based on community type varies. Suburban respondents, for example, were more likely than their urban and rural counterparts to report that they served all ages. Some 43.8 percent of suburban respondents cater to an audience of all ages, compared with 42.1 percent of rural respondents and 37.3 percent of urban respondents.

The differences are more marked for the other audience groupings. With college respondents more heavily weighted toward urban areas than other community types, it should come as no surprise that urban respondents were more likely than others to report that their primary audience was made up of college students. In fact, 20.1 percent of urban respondents named this as their primary audience, compared with 9.5 percent of suburban respondents and 9 percent of rural respondents.

Seniors, on the other hand, were more likely to be a primary audience for suburban and urban respondents. Among these respondents, 3 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively, said seniors were their main audience at their facilities, compared with 1.3 percent of rural respondents.

Rural respondents were more likely than their counterparts in urban and suburban areas to name teens as their primary audience, likely reflecting the higher number of school/school district respondents from this type of community. Some 12.7 percent of rural respondents said teens were their primary audience, compared with 7.1 percent of urban respondents and 6.7 percent of suburban respondents.

Along similar lines, it stands to reason that primary audience will vary widely depending on the types of facilities covered. Most obviously, college students are primarily the primary audience for college respondents. Some 84.1 percent of college respondents said that college students were their primary audience.

Adults ages 19 to 64 were most likely to be the primary audience for health club respondents. Some 71.6 percent of health club respondents named this as their primary audience. Schools and colleges were obviously least likely to name adults as their primary audience.

Parks respondents were more likely than others to say they served an all-ages audience. Some 56.1 percent of parks respondents said their primary audience was all ages. They were followed by YMCAs, 55.1 percent of whom said they served all ages. Colleges and health clubs were least likely to serve all ages, with 5 percent of colleges and 23 percent of health clubs indicating this was their primary audience.

Teens were most likely to be the primary audience for school respondents. Some 53 percent of school respondents said they primarily served teens. They were followed by camp respondents, 17.3 percent of whom named teens as their primary audience.

Children ages 4 to 12 were most likely to be the primary audience for parks respondents. More than a quarter (26.6 percent) of parks respondents said they primarily served children in this age group. They were followed by camp respondents, 24.3 percent of whom primarily serve children ages 4 to 12.

Golf clubs and country clubs were more likely than others to name seniors as their primary audience, with 9.3 percent of these respondents indicating they primarily served seniors 65 and older. They were followed by YMCAs, 3.7 percent of whom named seniors as their primary audience.

Revenues & Expenditures

Over the past several years' worth of industry report surveys, respondents have been increasingly positive regarding revenue changes, with a growing percentage expecting to see higher revenues, and a corresponding decrease in the percentage who are expecting to see revenues fall.

Since 2010, the percentage of respondents expecting to see higher revenues from one year to the next has generally increased (with an exception in 2012-13). In 2014, 39.5 percent of respondents said they saw higher revenues in 2013 than in 2012. In 2015, 43.6 percent of respondents reported that their revenues had risen from 2013 to 2014.

At the same time, while 14.9 percent of respondents in 2014 reported a decrease in revenues from 2012 to 2013, in 2015, 12.4 percent reported seeing a decrease. (See Figure 10.) In fact, the percentage of respondents reporting decreasing revenues has fallen steadily, from 20.8 percent reporting a decrease in 2010 to 2011.

Looking forward, the percentage of respondents who expect revenues to increase continues to grow, with 48.9 percent of respondents predicting an increase in revenues from 2014 to 2015, and 49.4 percent predicting an increase from 2015 to 2016. At the same time, the percentage expecting revenues to drop falls from 7.7 percent expecting a decrease from 2014 to 2015, to 5.4 percent who expect a decrease from 2015 to 2016.

Respondents from suburban communities were the least likely to report stable revenues from 2013 to 2014. They were both the most likely to report that revenues had increased (45.5 percent of suburban respondents) and the most likely to report that revenues had decreased (13.9 percent). Urban respondents reported the most stable revenues in that time period, with 49.2 percent indicating revenues had remained the same from 2013 to 2014. Some 39.6 percent of urban respondents reported an increase, and 9.8 percent reported a decrease. At the same time, 42.9 percent of rural respondents reported an increase, and 12.3 percent reported a decrease.

Looking forward, suburban respondents continue to have the most positive outlook in terms of revenue growth, with 51.5 percent predicting an increase from 2014 to 2015 and 52 percent predicting an increase from 2015 to 2016. Rural respondents were the least likely to be expecting increases, with 46.7 percent expecting an increase in 2015, and 46.5 percent expecting an increase in 2016. At the same time, rural respondents are the most likely to predict decreasing revenues, with 9.4 percent expecting revenues to fall in 2015 and 7.5 percent expecting a decrease in 2016.

Looking at revenues according to facility type, those from camp facilities and YMCAs were the most likely to report that revenues had increased from 2013 to 2014. Some 60 percent of camp respondents and 59.7 percent of YMCA respondents reported an increase in that period.

Respondents from schools and colleges were the most likely to report that revenues remained stable from 2013 to 2014, with 67 percent of schools and 58.6 percent of colleges reporting no change to revenues in that period.

Respondents from health clubs and schools were the most likely to report that revenues had decreased from 2013 to 2014. Some 17.8 percent of health club respondents and 15.5 percent of school respondents indicated a drop in revenues last year.

Looking ahead, respondents from colleges and schools continue to be the most likely to expect stable revenues. From 2014 to 2015, 61.4 percent of college respondents and 60.4 percent of school respondents said they expected revenues to remain the same. From 2015 to 2016, 62.2 percent of school respondents and 60.4 percent of college respondents expect stable revenues.

Camp respondents are the most optimistic in terms of future revenues. From 2014 to 2015, 70.4 percent of camp respondents said they expect to see an increase in revenue. And from 2015 to 2016, 71.7 percent expect an increase.

School respondents were more likely by large margin to expect to see revenues fall in 2015 and 2016. Some 21.8 percent of school respondents said they expect such a decrease from 2014 to 2015, and 20.2 percent expect a decrease in 2016. They were followed by park respondents in 2014-15, with 7.2 percent of those respondents expecting a decrease in that time frame, and by colleges in 2015-16, with 8.7 percent expecting a decrease.

After reporting slight decreases to average operating expenditures for the past two years, this year saw a substantial jump in operating expenditures—a 24.9 percent increase from an average of $1,431,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,787,000 in fiscal 2014. While this is still 8.1 percent lower than the highest average reported in 2009 ($1,944,000), it represents a substantial increase from the years following the onset of the recession.

Looking forward, respondents projected a 5.5 percent increase from fiscal 2014 to fiscal 2016, from $1,787,000 to $1,886,000. (See Figure 11.)

While respondents from urban communities reported the highest overall average operating expenditure for 2014, at $2,128,000, these respondents reported the smallest increase from 2013. For urban communities, average operating expenditures increased 14 percent from $1,867,000 in 2013. The largest increase was reported by rural communities, with average operating expenditures rising 34.9 percent from $923,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,245,000 in fiscal 2014. Suburban respondents reported a 25.3 percent increase, from $1,610,000 in fiscal 2013 to $2,017,000 in 2014.

Looking forward, rural respondents also expect the largest increase in average operating expenditures between 2014 and 2016, projecting a 9.9 percent increase to an average of $1,368,000. They were followed by suburban respondents, who projected an increase of 4.7 percent to an average of $2,111,000 in fiscal 2016. Finally, urban respondents projected a 3.7 percent increase, to an average of $2,207,000 in fiscal 2016.

From fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014, respondents from schools, colleges and camps reported the greatest increases in average operating expenditures. At the same time, respondents from health clubs, community centers and YMCAs all reported decreases. Schools reported the greatest increase—a 39.1 percent jump from an average of $1,229,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,710,000 in fiscal 2014. They were followed by colleges, with a 36.6 percent increase, and camps with a 31 percent increase. Increases to average operating expenditures were also reported by parks respondents, who saw a 28.8 percent increase from $1,537,000 in fiscal 2013 to $1,980,000 in 2014. (See Figure 12.)


Health clubs reported the greatest overall decrease—with a 26.2 percent drop from $1,302,000 in fiscal 2013 to $961,000 in fiscal 2014. They were followed by community centers, with a 14.5 percent decrease and YMCAs with a 1.3 percent decrease.

Looking forward, camp respondents reported the greatest increase to average operating expenditures between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2016, with a 14.2 percent increase from $1,229,000 to $1,404,000. They were followed by community center respondents, who reported a 9.7 percent increase, and college respondents, with a 9.1 percent increase. The smallest increases in that time period were projected by school respondents, with a 1.5 percent jump from $1,710,000 to $1,735,000; and parks respondents, who reported a 2.8 percent increase from $1,980,000 in fiscal 2014 to $2,035,000 in fiscal 2016.

A majority of respondents indicated that they had taken actions to reduce expenditures at their facilities within the past year. Some 84.2 percent of respondents said they had done so, up from 83.5 percent in 2014. (See Figure 13.)

The most common measures used to decrease operating expenditures were improving energy efficiency (53.3 percent of respondents had done so); increasing fees (42.1 percent); reducing staffing levels (35.5 percent); and putting construction or renovation plans on hold (30.2 percent). Nearly one-fifth also reported that they had cut programming or services (18.5 percent) or reduced their hours of operation (18.4 percent). Less common measures included shortening the season of operation (8.6 percent) and closing facilities (6.1 percent).

Respondents from suburban communities were the most likely to report that they had taken actions to reduce operating expenditures within the past year. Some 85.6 percent of suburban respondents indicated they had done so, compared with 52.9 percent of rural respondents and 50.8 percent of urban respondents.

Suburban respondents were also those most likely to have taken the three most common actions used to reduce expenditures. Some 54.7 percent said they had improved energy efficiency, 46.8 percent had increased fees, and 36.6 percent had reduced staffing levels. Rural respondents were more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to have put construction or renovation plans on hold (34 percent of rural respondents had done so); shortened the season of operation (9.9 percent) or closed facilities (7.7 percent). Urban respondents were more likely than other community types to report that they had reduced their hours of operation (20.2 percent) or cut programming or services (18.6 percent.)

Respondents from camps, health clubs and YMCAs were more likely than other types of respondents to report that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 89 percent of camp respondents, 88.7 percent of health club respondents and 88.1 percent of YMCA respondents said they had done so. Those from colleges and community centers were the least likely to have taken action to reduce expenditures, though a majority indicated they had done so. Some 78.7 percent of college respondents and 78.6 percent of community center respondents said they had taken action to reduce expenditures.

Health club respondents were more likely than others to report that they had taken measures to improve energy efficiency. Some 57.7 percent of health club respondents had done so. Camp respondents were the most likely to report that they had increased fees (59.3 percent) or put construction and renovation plans on hold (38.4 percent). YMCA respondents were the most likely to report that they had reduced staff (49.3 percent) or cut programming and services (23.1 percent). Parks respondents were the most likely to indicate that they had reduced their hours of operation (22.3 percent) or shortened their season of operation (13.3 percent). Finally, school respondents were the most likely to report that they had closed facilities (7.7 percent).

Facility Usage & Membership

The percentage of survey respondents who report that they charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities tends to fluctuate from year to year, generally staying within the 55-to-60-percent range. In 2015, the percentage of respondents who charge such a fee is up slightly from 2014. Some 58.4 percent of respondents in 2015 reported that they do charge such a fee, up from 55.7 percent last year. (See Figure 14.)

As usual, respondents from health clubs and YMCAs were the most likely to report that they charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. All of the health club respondents (100 percent) and 93.4 percent of YMCA respondents indicated that they charge such a fee. They were followed by camp respondents (63.2 percent of whom charge a fee), community center respondents (62.6 percent), parks respondents (57.3 percent) and college respondents (56.5 percent). School respondents were the least likely to charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. Only 18.5 percent of school respondents reported doing so.

A majority of respondents reported that they plan to hold their fees steady over the next few years, although the percentage who plan to increase their fees does rise from 2014 through 2016. More than two-thirds (67.6 percent) of respondents said they kept their fees the same from 2013 to 2014. From 2014 to 2015, 62.8 percent projected no change in membership fees, and from 2015 to 2016, 60 percent have no plans to increase fees. (See Figure 15.)

However, while 31 percent of respondents increased their fees from 2013 to 2014, more plan to do so over the next two years. From 2014 to 2015, 36.2 percent of respondents said they expect to increase fees. And, from 2015 to 2016, 39.7 percent predicted that they will be increasing their fees.

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that they had increased their fees from 2013 to 2014. Nearly half (47.2 percent) of YMCA respondents said they had increased fees in that time period. They were followed by camp respondents, 42.7 percent of whom had increased fees, and community centers, 34.6 percent of whom had increased fees.

Looking forward, camps, YMCAs and health clubs are the most likely to report that they expect to increase fees. From 2014 to 2015, 51.8 percent of camp respondents said they expected their fees to increase. They were followed by YMCAs (51.2 percent) and health clubs (31.1 percent). From 2015 to 2016, 45.5 percent of camp respondents said they expected to increase fees. They were followed by YMCAs (38.6 percent) and health clubs (36.5 percent).

In 2014, 54.9 percent of survey respondents said they expected to see utilization of their facility increase from 2013 to 2014. This year, 55.3 percent of respondents said such an increase had taken place. At the same time, 8.6 percent of this year's respondents reported a decrease in the number of people using their facilities. (See Figure 16.)

Looking ahead, more respondents expect to see continuing increases to usage of their facilities, while the percentage who are expecting to see usage decrease continues to fall over time. From 2014 to 2015, 59.8 percent of respondents said they expect usage of their facilities to increase, and 4.1 percent said they expect a decrease. From 2015 to 2016, 59.9 percent of respondents said they expect usage of their facilities to increase, and 1.9 percent said they expect a decrease.

Respondents in urban communities are the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities increased from 2013 to 2014. And, looking ahead, urban respondents are also the most likely to report that they expect usage of their facilities to increase in 2015 and 2016. From 2013 to 2014, 57.4 percent of urban respondents said the number of people using their facilities had increased, compared with 55.8 percent of suburban respondents and 53.3 percent of rural respondents.

Looking forward, 61.7 percent of urban respondents expect to see an increase in usage in 2015, and 64.2 percent expect an increase in 2016. This compares with 60.9 percent of suburban respondents who expect an increase in 2015 and 61.4 percent in 2016. Rural respondents are less likely to expect more people to be using their facilities over the next two years, with 57 percent projecting an increase from 2014 to 2015, and 54.8 percent projecting an increase from 2015 to 2016.

Respondents from community centers, parks and camp facilities were the most likely to report that usage of their facilities had increased from 2013 to 2014. Some 63.3 percent of community center respondents, 60.6 percent of park respondents and 59.8 percent of camp respondents reported that they had seen an increase in usage in that time period. Health club respondents and YMCA respondents were the most likely to report that usage of their facilities had decreased from 2013 to 2014, with 15.1 percent of health clubs and 11.1 percent of YMCAs reporting they had seen such a decrease.

Looking forward, respondents from community centers are the most likely to expect further increases in 2015 and 2016, with 68.9 percent of community center respondents projecting an increase in usage from 2014 to 2015, and 72.6 percent projecting an increase from 2015 to 2016. They were followed by YMCAs, 64.6 percent of whom expect to see an increase in usage in 2015 and 68.9 percent of whom expect an increase in 2016.

Staffing

The number of people employed by survey respondents' organizations held fairly steady over the past year. In 2014, the total number of employees was 126.3, and in 2015, the total number of employees is 126.9. This includes 25.6 full-time workers (down from 28); 34.8 part-time workers (down slightly from 35.4); 34.4 seasonal workers (up from 31.1); 30.3 volunteers (up slightly from 30) and 1.9 other workers in 2015. (See Figure 17.)


YMCAs continue to employ the greatest number of people, though there was a decrease from 2014. In 2014, YMCA respondents employed an average of 250.5 people, and in 2015, that number fell to 231.5. Parks and recreation respondents are the second largest employer, with an average of 144.3 employees. Health clubs employ the smallest number, with 76.8 employees, on average.

Schools and school districts have the largest number of full-time employees, with an average of 50.4 They are followed by colleges and universities, with an average of 36.1 full-time workers.

YMCAs employ the greatest number of part-time employees, with 86.6 on average. They are followed by colleges and university respondents, who employ an average of 58.6 part-time workers.

Parks respondents work with the largest number of seasonal workers, with an average of 48.4. Camps follow fairly closely with an average of 45.8 seasonal workers.

Volunteers are most likely to be found at YMCA respondents' facilities. On average, YMCA respondents employ 76.8 volunteers. They are followed by camps, which employ an average of 43.5 volunteers, and parks, with 42.

While a majority of respondents reported that they maintained existing staff levels in 2014 and plan to continue to do so in 2015, a growing number of respondents indicated that they are planning to add more staff. In 2013, 14.9 percent of respondents said they were planning to add staff. That number rose to 17.7 percent in 2014, and increased again in 2015, to 19.7 percent. At the same time, the percentage of respondents who plan to reduce their staff has been falling, from 7.1 percent in 2012 to just 3.6 percent in 2015. (See Figure 18.)

Respondents from community centers, health clubs and parks were the most likely to report that they had plans to add staff in 2015. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of community center respondents said they had such plans, while 23 percent of health club respondents and 20.9 percent of park respondents were planning to add staff.

Respondents from camps and schools were the most likely to be planning staff reductions, though a majority of respondents in both of these groups plan to either maintain existing staff levels or increase staff in 2015. Some 5.2 percent of camp respondents and 4.2 percent of school respondents said they were planning to reduce staff in 2015.

On average, respondents who are planning to add staff will hire 25.1 new employees, with four of those being full-time employees, seven part-time employees, 5.7 seasonal employees and 8.2 volunteers. Respondents from schools, YMCAs and health clubs plan to add the greatest number of employees. School respondents who are adding staff will add 50.8 employees on average; YMCAs will add 38.4; and health clubs will add 35.7.

Over the years of the industry report survey, a majority of respondents have indicated that they require certifications for some of their staff members. This year is no different, with 80.9 percent indicating that they do require certifications, and 19.1 percent reporting that no certifications are required. Of those who do not currently require certification, 18.1 percent reported that they plan to do so in the future. (See Figure 19.)

Respondents from YMCAs are the most likely to require certifications, with 97.8 percent of these respondents currently requiring certifications of some kind for their staff members. They were followed by health clubs, where 95.9 percent of respondents require certifications, and schools, where 85.6 percent require certification. Respondents from camps were the least likely to require certifications, with 73.6 percent of camp respondents reporting that they are required. (See Figure 20.)

A majority of respondents require certification in CPR/AED/First Aid, with 88 percent requiring such certifications, as well as background checks (81.7 percent), and lifeguard certifications (59.4 percent). More than a third (33.7 percent) also require aquatic management and pool operations certifications. A quarter or more require food service (25.2 percent) or pesticide application (25 percent) certifications. (See Figure 21.)

Respondents from YMCAs are the most likely to require many types of certifications, including CPR/AED/First Aid (97.7 percent of YMCA respondents require them); background checks (91.7 percent); lifeguard (85.7 percent); aquatic management and pool operations (51.9 percent); and childcare/early childhood education (51.9 percent).

Parks respondents are the most likely to require pesticide application certification (43.4 percent of parks respondents require it); playground safety (36.9 percent); turf/grounds management (14.2 percent); Certified Parks and Recreation Professional (CPRP) (21.1 percent); and security or law enforcement (10.1 percent).

Respondents from camp facilities are the most likely to require food service certification (57.8 percent of camp respondents require it) and climbing certification (38.3 percent).

School respondents are the most likely to require coaching certification (66.5 percent require it) and teaching certification (60.5 percent).

Health club respondents are the most likely to require personal training and fitness certifications (80.3 percent of these respondents require it); and college respondents are the most likely to require athletic trainer certifications (30.6 percent require it).

Facilities & Construction Plans

Since 2013, we have been asking survey participants about the age of their main facility. On average, respondents' facilities have aged from 27.5 years old in 2013 to 31.2 years old in 2015. Only 8.1 percent of respondents in 2015 reported that their main facility was 5 years old or less, down from 9.3 percent in 2014. Another 10.9 percent have facilities that are between 6 and 10 years old. More than a fifth (21.4 percent) reported their main facility is between 11 and 20 years old, and 16.9 percent said their facility was 21 to 30 years old. A large number of respondents-42.7 percent-indicated that their facilities were at least 31 years old, up from 41.3 percent in 2014. What's more, 29.7 percent are operating a main facility that is at least 41 years old. And, 14.2 percent of respondents said their main facility is at least 50 years old.

Respondents from health clubs report having the newest facilities, though on average, health club respondents' main facility is 24.6 years old. (See Figure 22.) They were followed by colleges and universities at 26 years and community recreation centers at 26.4 years old. Some 13.7 percent of health club respondents indicated that their main facility was 5 years old or younger. They were followed by colleges and universities (11.9 percent) and community centers (10.7 percent).

The oldest facilities were found among camp respondents, who report an average age for their main facility of 50.2 years. In fact, not a single camp respondent reported having a facility newer than five years old, and 37.6 percent of camp respondents indicated that their main facility is more than 50 years old. They were followed by YMCAs, with an average age of 35 years, and 19.3 percent reporting their facility is 50 years old or older.

With so many older facilities still in operation, it comes as no surprising that the percentage of respondents who report that they have plans for new facilities, additions and renovations continues to increase after seeing a slight dip in the wake of the recession. Nearly two-thirds (65.8 percent) of respondents reported that they have such plans over the next three years, compared with 60.4 percent who reported having construction plans in 2012. (See Figure 23.)

There was a slight dip in the number of respondents who are planning new construction, from 26.7 percent in 2014 to 25.7 percent this year. But, the percentage of respondents who are planning additions rose from 28.6 percent to 29.8 percent, and the number planning renovations increased from 45.9 percent to 46.9 percent.

Respondents from urban communities are the most likely to report having construction plans, with 67.1 percent of these respondents indicating they will be building new facilities or making additions or renovations within the next three years. They were followed by suburban communities, 66.7 percent of whom have such plans. Rural respondents were the least likely to have construction plans, though a majority (64 percent) indicated they are planning construction.

Urban respondents are most likely to be planning new construction, with 28.7 percent of them indicating they have such plans. This compares with 23.5 percent of rural respondents who plan new construction. Suburban respondents are most likely to be planning additions and renovations, with 31.4 percent indicating they'll be making additions and 47.4 percent reporting they'll be making renovations to their facilities.

Just as they report having the oldest facilities, camp respondents are the most likely to report that they have construction plans of any kind over the next several years. Some 80.5 percent of camp respondents have construction plans of one kind or another. They are the most likely respondents to be planning to build new (38.5 percent), make additions (36.2 percent) or renovations (66.7 percent).

Parks follow camps as the most likely to be planning construction, with 72.6 percent of these respondents indicating they have such plans. YMCAs were also highly likely to be planning construction, with 70.6 percent of these respondents indicating they have such plans. Community centers and health clubs are the least likely to have plans for construction. Some 14.6 percent of community centers and 14.9 percent of health clubs have construction plans.

After camps, park respondents are the most likely to be planning new construction, with nearly a third (32.4 percent) indicating they have such plans. They are followed by college respondents, 24.8 percent of whom have plans for new construction. YMCAs and health clubs follow camps as the most likely to be planning additions at their existing facilities. Some 31.6 percent of YMCA respondents and 31.1 percent of health club respondents are planning additions. Parks and YMCAs follow camps as the most likely to be planning renovations, with 53.1 percent of park respondents and 49.3 percent of YMCA respondents reporting that they have plans for renovations at their existing facilities.

On average, respondents are planning to spend $4,024,000 on their construction plans, down 10.5 percent from 2014's average construction cost of $4,495,000. (See Figure 24.) Since 2011, the average budget for construction plans has risen 2.1 percent, from $3,942,000.


Looking at the average amount planned for construction spending according to community size, respondents from urban communities are planning to spend the most, with an average budget of $5,194,000. Respondents from suburban communities are planning to spend $4,293,000 on their construction, and those from rural areas are planning to spend an average of $2,748,000.

Respondents from camps showed a dramatic increase in planned spending for construction from 2014 to 2015, with an increase of 137.7 percent. This is tempered by the fact that just a handful (5.9 percent) of these respondents are planning to spend $10 million or more. A majority of camp respondents, 63 percent, are planning to spend $500,000 or less on their new construction.

Increases in construction spending from 2014 to 2015 were also seen among respondents from YMCAs, with a 9.9 percent increase from an average budget of $3,840,000 in 2014 to an average of $4,221,000 in 2015; as well as parks, with a 2.2 increase. (See Figure 24.)

The biggest decrease in construction spending year-over-year was seen among community center respondents, with a 16.3 percent drop from an average of $3,006,000 in 2014 to $2,516,000 in 2015. Decreases were also reported by college and university respondents (down 15.8 percent), schools and school districts (down 11.5 percent) and health clubs (down just 0.4 percent).

As usual, colleges and universities report the highest budgets for construction of all respondents, with an average of $7,775,000-93.2 percent higher than the average for all respondents. They were followed by school respondents, whose average construction budget in 2015 is 38.9 percent higher than the average for all respondents. Health clubs and camps have the lowest construction budgets-60.1 percent and 52.7 percent below the across-the-board average, respectively.

The top amenities included in respondents' facilities in 2015 include: classrooms and meeting rooms (58.8 percent of respondents have them in their facilities); bleachers and seating (58.1 percent); outdoor sports courts for basketball, tennis, etc. (56.2 percent); playgrounds (56 percent); locker rooms (55.4 percent); concession areas (53.2 percent); natural turf sports fields for football, soccer, baseball, etc. (53.1 percent); Wi-Fi services (52.4 percent); open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (52.3 percent); and park shelters such as picnic areas and gazebos (49.9 percent). (See Figure 25.)


Parks respondents were the facilities most likely to include: playgrounds (83 percent of parks respondents included them); park shelters such as picnic areas and gazebos (82.4 percent); park restroom structures (79.3 percent); outdoor sports courts for basketball, tennis, etc. (70.1 percent); bike trails (48 percent); skateparks (39.2 percent); dog parks (32.1 percent); disc golf courses (28.4 percent); fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (27.9 percent); splash play areas (27.3 percent); golf courses (19 percent); ice rinks (17.1 percent); waterparks (16.5 percent); and bike/BMX parks (10.2 percent).

Respondents from camps were the most likely to include: open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (76.4 percent of camp respondents include them); walking and hiking trails (75.9 percent); campgrounds (62.6 percent); waterfronts and marinas (52.3 percent); outdoor aquatic facilities (50.6 percent); challenge courses and ropes courses (42.5 percent); climbing walls (38.5 percent); nature centers (25.3 percent); skiing and winter recreation 10.9 percent); and amusements (7.5 percent).

College respondents were the most likely to include: locker rooms (84.8 percent of college respondents include them); indoor sports courts (82.9 percent); classrooms and meeting rooms (65.5 percent); indoor tracks (54 percent); and synthetic turf sports fields (42.2 percent).

Schools respondents were the most likely to include: bleachers and seating (71.8 percent of these respondents had them); natural turf sports fields (68.5 percent); concessions (66.7 percent); and outdoor tracks (54.8 percent).

YMCA respondents were the most likely to include: Wi-Fi services (66.9 percent of YMCAs had this amenity); indoor aquatic facilities (64 percent); and childcare areas (58.1 percent).

Health clubs were more likely than other respondents to include: fitness centers (94.6 percent of health clubs have them) and exercise studio rooms (83.8 percent).

Some 42.7 percent of respondents indicated that they have plans to add features to their facilities over the next three years. This is up from 37.6 percent of respondents who had such plans in 2014. (See Figure 26.)


Respondents from parks, camps and YMCAs were the most likely to report that they plan to add features at their facilities over the next three years. More than half (54.4 percent) of park respondents reported having such plans, up from 46 percent in 2014. Nearly half (48.9 percent) of camp respondents have plans, up from 47.9 percent in 2014. And, 41.2 percent of YMCAs have such plans, down slightly from 43.2 percent in 2014. Respondents from health clubs and schools are the least likely to report that they have plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years, although health clubs saw an increase from 24.1 percent in 2014 to 27 percent this year.

For all facility types, the top 10 planned features include:

  1. Splash play areas (22.5 percent of respondents with plans to add any features plan to add them, down slightly from 22.7 percent in 2014)
  2. Playgrounds (17.2 percent, up from 16.5 percent)
  3. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (17.1 percent, not measured in 2014)
  4. Walking or hiking trails (15.9 percent)
  5. Synthetic turf sports fields (15.7 percent, down from 17.8 percent)
  6. Park shelters (15.7 percent)
  7. Bleachers and seating (14.2 percent, up from 14 percent)
  8. Wi-Fi services (13.7 percent, not measured in 2014)
  9. Restroom structures (13.3 percent, not measured in 2014)
  10. Bike trails (13.3 percent, not measured in 2014)

2015 represents the first year including some new features on the list. What were formerly listed as park shelters and restroom structures was divided into two categories, and trails were split into walking/hiking trails, bike trails and fitness trails and outdoor exercise equipment. Wi-Fi services were also added to the list. Interestingly, all of these new additions made the list of top 10 planned features for respondents.

Programming

There were few changes from 2014 to 2015 in the top types of programming most commonly found among respondents' facilities. These include: holiday events and other special events (provided by 62.8 percent of respondents); fitness programs (56.9 percent); educational programs (56.8 percent); day camps and summer camps 52.7 percent); youth sports teams (50.3 percent); mind-body/balance programs such as yoga (46.8 percent); sports tournaments or races (45.6 percent); adult sports teams (45.1 percent); swimming programs (45 percent) and arts and crafts (44 percent). (See Figure 27.)


YMCAs and health clubs are the respondents most likely to offer any programming at all. A full 100 percent of YMCA and health club respondents reported that they offer some type of programming.

YMCAs are more likely than others to offer holidays and special events, educational programs, day camps and summer camps, youth sports teams, swimming programs, arts and crafts, active older adult programming, teen programs, individual sports activities, aquatic exercise, trips, performing arts, day care, special needs programs and therapeutic programming.

Health clubs are more likely than others to provide fitness programming, mind-body/balance programs, personal training and nutrition and diet counseling.

Parks are more likely than others to provide sports tournaments and races, adult sports teams, sport training, and festivals and concerts.

Camps are more likely than others to provide environmental education, water sports, camping and climbing.

Nearly one-third (32.2 percent) of respondents indicated that they have plans to add more programming options to their offerings over the next three years, up from 28.4 percent in 2014. The 10 most commonly planned program additions include:

  1. Mind body/balance programs (planned by 25.2 percent of those who will be adding programs)
  2. Fitness programs (24.9 percent)
  3. Educational programs (24.3 percent)
  4. Day camps and summer camps (22.8 percent)
  5. Environmental education (21.5 percent)
  6. Teen programming (20.4 percent)
  7. Adult sports teams (19.4 percent)
  8. Active older adult programs (19.4 percent)
  9. Holidays and other special events (19.1 percent)
  10. Nutrition and diet counseling (17.4 percent)

More respondents in 2015 than in 2014 said they would be adding mind-body/balance programs (25.2 percent vs. 22 percent), as well as day camps and summer camps (22.8 percent vs. 19.8 percent), environmental education (21.5 percent vs. 18.7 percent), and nutrition and diet counseling (17.4 percent vs. 15.9 percent).

Respondents from YMCAs, community centers and parks were the most likely to report that they had plans to add programming at their facilities over the next three years. Some 39.7 percent of YMCA respondents said they had plans to add programming, up from 36.8 percent in 2014. The most common programs they planned to add included nutrition and diet counseling (33.3 percent of those with plans to add programs were planning to add this); mind-body/balance programs (27.8 percent); and adult sports teams (25.9 percent).

Nearly four in 10 (39.2 percent) of community center respondents also were planning to add new programming. The most common programs they planned to add include teen programming (26.9 percent); fitness programs (25.4 percent); and nutrition and diet counseling (20.9 percent).

Some 38.3 percent of parks respondents reported that they had plans to add programs. The most commonly planned programs for these respondents included: environmental education (30.1 percent); mind-body/balance programs (28.6 percent); and fitness (26.3 percent).

Challenges & Issues of Concern

Budgets and the economy tend to always be the top primary concern for readers, but there are other issues that crop up and create challenges in the operation and management of recreation, sports and fitness facilities. Once again holding the top spot on that list in 2015 is equipment and facility maintenance-no surprise, given the average age of most respondents' facilities. Some 56.3 percent of respondents said this is a top concern for them right now. (See Figure 28.)


Replacing staffing issues in the No. 2 spot on the list this year is marketing and increasing participation, which 43.9 percent of respondents said was their top concern.

Staffing issues fell to the No. 3 spot on the list, with 42.9 percent naming this as a current issue of concern. It was followed by creating new and innovative programming (34.6 percent), which replaced safety and risk management in the No. 4 spot. Safety and risk management fell to No. 5, with more than a third (33.4 percent) naming this as a top current concern.



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