Regional Information

A Look at Regional Trends

There are always regional differences in terms of construction costs, economic impacts and much more, which will have an effect on the operations of recreation, sports and fitness facilities. In this section, we'll take a look at some of the regional variances, from budgets and revenues to usage, staffing, programming and more.

As we've seen in past Industry Reports, the regional distribution of our 2,300-plus respondents coincides relatively closely with U.S. Census numbers, with the exception of the Midwest, which is always more heavily weighted in our survey responses. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 17.9 percent of the U.S. population lives in the Northeast, 21.7 percent is in the Midwest, 19.4 percent are in the South Atlantic states, 17.7 percent in the South Central states, and 23.3 percent are located in the West. In the 2015 survey, 17.4 percent of respondents are located in the Northeast, 30.7 percent in the Midwest, 18.7 percent in the South Atlantic, 12.4 percent in the South Central region, and 20.4 percent in the West. Less than one in 100 (0.4 percent) of respondents said they are located outside the United States.

Respondents from the South Central region and the West were more likely than others to be from urban communities. More than one-third (33.6 percent) of South Central respondents and nearly a quarter (24.7 percent) of Western respondents said they were reporting from urban communities. Respondents from the Northeast were the least likely to be from urban areas, with 18.4 percent of these respondents indicating they lived in urban communities.

Respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic states were more likely than others to be from suburban communities. More than half (51.4 percent) of Northeastern respondents and nearly half (48.7 percent) of South Atlantic respondents indicated they were from suburban communities. South Central respondents were the least likely to be from suburban communities, though more than one-third (34.6 percent) reported that they call the suburbs home.

Respondents from the Midwest and the West were more likely than those in other regions to report in from rural areas. Some 41.4 percent of Midwestern respondents and 35.7 percent of Western respondents said they were located in rural areas. South Atlantic respondents were the least likely to work in rural areas, with just 24.1 percent of these respondents indicating that they were located in a rural community.

Respondents from public organizations were most likely to be located in the Midwest and the West, with 32.4 percent of these respondents located in the Midwest, and 21.3 percent located in the West. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (19.3 percent), Northeast (14.9 percent) and South Central (12.1 percent).

Respondents from private, for-profit organizations were most likely to be located in the West and Northeast, with 25.6 percent reporting they were in the West, and 21 percent reporting from the Northeast. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (19.2 percent), the Midwest (18.9 percent) and the South Central states (13.9 percent).

Respondents from private nonprofit facilities were most likely to be located in the Midwest and Northeast, with 31.9 percent reporting from the Midwest and 23 percent in the Northeast. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (16.8 percent), the West (15 percent) and the South Central region (12.5 percent).

Different types of facilities also were more likely to be found in some regions than others. For example, although parks are the predominant facility type in most regions, they are much more prevalent among respondents in the South Atlantic and West than in the South Central region. In the South Atlantic, 44.3 percent of respondents are from parks organizations, and in the West, 43.7 percent of respondents were with parks. In contrast, just 28 percent of South Central respondents were with parks organizations. (See Figure 29.)


Colleges and universities were more common among respondents in the South Central and Northeast regions. Some 18.9 percent of South Central respondents and 17.3 percent of Northeastern respondents were with colleges and universities, compared with 8.7 percent of those in the West.

Schools and school districts were more common in the South Central and Midwest regions. Some 13.6 percent of South Central respondents and 12 percent of Midwestern respondents were with schools. Respondents from the South Atlantic region were least likely to be with schools, with just 5.3 percent of respondents in that region.

Health club respondents were more prevalent in the South Central states and in the West, with 4.5 percent and 4.2 percent of those respondents, respectively. They were least likely to be found in the Midwest, where 2.5 percent of respondents were with health clubs.

YMCAs were most common in the Northeast and South Central states, where 8.3 percent and 6.3 percent of respondents, respectively, said they worked with YMCAs or similar organizations. They were least likely to be found in the West, where just 3.4 percent of respondents were with YMCAs.

Camp respondents were most common in the West and Northeast, where 8.3 percent of each of those subgroups reported working with camp facilities. They were least likely to be found in the South Atlantic region, where 5.3 percent of respondents were with camps.

Finally, community center respondents were most likely to be found in the West (8.5 percent of respondents in the West) and in the Midwest (7.9 percent), and least common among respondents in the Northeast (4.5 percent).

With the exception of health clubs, all facility types, like the survey population in general, were most likely to be found in the Midwest.

Just over three in 10 parks respondents (30.6 percent) were from the Midwest. They were followed by parks respondents in the West (23 percent), South Atlantic (21.3 percent), Northeast (16 percent) and South Central states (8.9 percent).

A similar percentage of college respondents (30.3 percent) were from the Midwest. They were followed by respondents in the Northeast (22 percent), South Atlantic (17.5 percent), South Central states (17.2 percent) and the West (13.1 percent).

A much larger number (39.5 percent) of school respondents were located in the Midwest. They were followed by the South Central states (18.1 percent), the Northeast (17.2 percent), the West (14.4 percent) and the South Atlantic (10.7 percent).

More than a quarter (27 percent) of health club respondents were located in the West. They were followed by those in the Midwest (24.3 percent), the South Central region (17.6 percent), the Northeast (16.2 percent) and the South Atlantic (14.9 percent).

Nearly a third (32.2 percent) of YMCA respondents were located in the Midwest. They were followed by those in the Northeast (24.4 percent), the South Atlantic (17 percent), the South Central region (13.3 percent) and the West (11.9 percent).

A similar number (32.2 percent) of camp respondents were located in the Midwest. They were followed by those in the West (22.8 percent), the Northeast (19.3 percent), the South Atlantic states (13.5 percent) and the South Central region (12.3 percent).

Finally, 32.9 percent of community center respondents were located in the Midwest. They were followed by those in the West (23.5 percent), the South Atlantic (18.2 percent), the South Central region (12.4 percent) and the Northeast (10.6 percent).

A majority of respondents in all regions reported that they form partnerships outside of their organizations to enhance their operations, programming opportunities, marketing, funding and more. Those from the Midwest were the most likely to form such partnerships. Some 88.1 percent of Midwestern respondents reported they had done so. They were followed by the South Atlantic region (87.9 percent had formed partnerships), the West (85.5 percent), the South Central region (83.2 percent) and the Northeast (81 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to form partnerships with local schools. Those in the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other regions to partner with local government, nonprofit organizations, corporate or local businesses, healthcare or medical facilities, and YMCAs and similar organizations. Respondents in the South Central region were more likely than others to partner with colleges and universities, state government and the military. Respondents in the West were more likely than others to partner with the federal government, and those in the Northeast were more likely to partner with private health clubs.

There also is slight variation across the regions in terms of the primary audience served by their main facilities. For example, respondents in the South Atlantic and Midwest were more likely to report that they served all ages than were respondents in other regions. Some 46.3 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 43.4 percent of Midwestern respondents said their primary audience was all ages. Respondents from the South Central region were least likely to serve all ages, with 34.1 percent naming this as their primary audience.

Adults ages 19 to 64 were more likely to be the primary audience in the South Central states, where 22 percent said this was the main group using their facilities. They were followed by the West, where 20 percent of respondents named adults 19 to 64 as their primary audience. They were least likely to be the primary audience in the Midwest, where 15.1 percent chose this group.

There was far less difference between the regions with regard to children ages 4 to 12. This age group was most likely to be the primary audience in the Northeast, where 19.1 percent of respondents mainly serve that audience, and least likely to be the primary audience for the South Central region, where 16 percent said this was their main group of users.

College students were most likely to be the primary audience in the South Central states and the Northeast, where 14.3 percent and 14.1 percent of respondents, respectively, named this as their main group of users. They were least likely to be the primary audience in the West. Just 7.7 percent of Western respondents said college students were their primary audience.

Teens ages 13 to 18 were more than twice as likely to be the primary audience for respondents in the South Central region as they were in the South Atlantic states. Some 12.5 percent of South Central respondents said teens were their primary audience. They were followed by the Midwest, where 10 percent serve primarily teens. In the South Atlantic states, just 6 percent of respondents named teens as their primary audience.

Seniors age 65 and older were most likely to be the primary audience in the West. Some 4.9 percent of Western respondents said they primarily serve seniors. This compares with just 0.7 percent of respondents in the South Central region who said seniors were their primary audience.

Budgets & Members

When it comes to the number of people using their facilities, respondents in the South Atlantic and the South Central states are the most likely to report increasing usage, year over year, from 2013 through 2016. From 2013 to 2014, 60.5 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 59.7 percent of South Central respondents said usage at their facilities had increased. (See Figure 30.) From 2014 to 2015, 64.4 percent of South Central respondents and 63.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents project increasing usage. And from 2015 to 2016, 67.3 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 65.2 percent of South Central respondents expect the number of people using their facilities to increase.


Respondents from the Northeast and Midwest were the least likely to report increasing usage at their facilities from 2013 to 2016. From 2013 to 2014, around half of respondents in both these regions (50 percent in the Northeast and 51.9 percent in the Midwest) said the number of people using their facilities had grown. From 2014 to 2015, 55.9 percent of Northeastern respondents and 56.2 percent of Midwestern respondents expect an increase in usage. And from 2015 to 2016, 55 percent of Midwestern respondents and 56.1 percent of Northeastern respondents said they expect to see the number of people using their facilities increase.

Just as they were the most likely to be reporting increased usage at their facilities, respondents in the South Atlantic states also reported the highest number of current employees, and also were the most likely to report that they had plans to add more staff in 2015. On average, respondents in the South Atlantic states employ 143.8 people. Some 24.5 percent of respondents in this region indicated that they will be adding staff in 2015.

They were followed in terms of numbers of employees by respondents in the West, who employ an average of 132.3 workers, and respondents in the South Central region, who employ 125.8. These respondents were also more likely to be planning to add staff, with 23 percent of South Central respondents and 20 percent of Western respondents indicating they had plans to do so in 2015.

Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to report that they had plans to reduce staff in 2015, though only 5.1 percent said they would be doing so. Another 16.8 percent have plans to add staff, and they currently employ an average of 124.1 people.

Respondents in the Northeast have the lowest number of employees, with an average of 108.4. They also were the least likely to report that they had plans to add staff in 2015. Some 15.9 percent of Northeastern respondents said they had plans to add staff, and 2.7 percent said they would be decreasing staff this year.

Respondents from the West were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2013 to 2014, and also were the most likely to expect increasing revenues over the next two years. Nearly half (49.1 percent) of respondents in the West said revenues had increased from 2013 to 2014, while 54 percent expect increases in 2015 and 53 percent expect increases in 2016. They were followed by South Central and South Atlantic respondents. Some 44.4 percent of South Central respondents and 43.1 percent of South Atlantic respondents said revenues had increased from 2013 to 2014. Looking ahead, 52 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 51.4 percent of South Central respondents expect revenues to rise in 2015, and 52.6 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 52.1 percent of South Central respondents expect increases in 2016.

Respondents in the Northeast and Midwest were most likely to report that revenues had fallen in 2014, and also were the most likely to expect revenue decreases in 2015 and 2016. Some 15.2 percent of Northeastern respondents said revenues had fallen from 2013 to 2014, while 13.2 percent of Midwestern respondents saw a decrease in that time period. Looking ahead, 9.2 percent of Midwestern respondents and 8.9 percent of Northeastern respondents expect a decrease in 2015, and 6.2 percent of Northeastern respondents and 6.1 percent of Midwestern respondents expect revenues to drop in 2016.

Respondents in the South Central region reported the highest average operating expenditure of all respondents for fiscal 2014, with an average of $2,014,000, 12.7 percent higher than the average for all respondents of $1,787,000. Respondents in the West also reported average operating expenditures that were higher than the across-the-board average. For those in the West, the average of $1,863,000 was 4.3 percent higher than the average for all respondents. The lowest operating expenditures were seen among respondents in the Northeast, with an average of $1,613,000, 9.7 percent lower than the average for all respondents. (See Figure 31.)


All regions reported an increase in average operating expenditures from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014. Further, all regions report increases to average operating expenditures between 2014 and 2016.

The greatest increase from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014 was seen among respondents in the Midwest, who reported a 36.9 percent increase. They were followed by the South Central region with an increase of 29.7 percent, and the Northeast, with an increase of 25.3 percent. The smallest increase was seen in the South Atlantic states, though these respondents did report a 10.7 percent increase to average operating expenditures.

From fiscal 2014 to fiscal 2016, the greatest overall increase in average operating expenditures is expected among respondents in the Northeast, who projected a 14 percent increase. More modest increases were projected in other regions, led by the West, with an increase of 5 percent, and followed by the South Atlantic region, at 4.4 percent, and the South Central region at 4.3 percent. Midwestern respondents projected the smallest increase from 2014 to 2016, of 2.8 percent.

A substantial majority in all regions reported that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures. As was the case in 2014, respondents in 2015 from the West and the Northeast were the most likely to report that they had taken such actions, while those in the South Central region were the least likely to have taken action to reduce expenditures. Some 88.3 percent of Western respondents (up from 85.4 percent in 2014) and 86.6 percent of Northeastern respondents (up from 85.5 percent in 2014) said they had taken such actions. They were followed by those in the Midwest, 84.7 percent of whom had taken actions to reduce expenditures (up from 83.6 percent in 2014); and by those in the South Atlantic, 81.3 percent of whom had taken such actions (down from 83 percent in 2014). Finally, some 78.1 percent of South Central respondents reported that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures, down from 79.3 percent in 2014.

Respondents in the West were the most likely to report that they had improved energy efficiency (56.1 percent), cut programming or services (22.7 percent) or closed facilities altogether (8.2 percent) in order to reduce their operating expenses. Those in the Northeast were the most likely to report that they had increased fees (48.1 percent) or reduced staffing levels (39.1 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to report that they had reduced their hours of operation (20 percent) or shortened their season of operation by, for example, opening later in the season or closing sooner (10.1 percent). Respondents in the South Atlantic region were the most likely to indicate that they had put construction or renovation plans on hold (33.9 percent).

Construction Plans

When it comes to building new facilities or undertaking the construction of additions or renovations at existing facilities, respondents in the South Atlantic and the West are both most likely to report that they have such plans, and also have been most likely to report an increase in such plans between 2013 and 2015. Those in the South Atlantic region are the most likely to have construction plans in 2015, with 71.8 percent of these respondents indicating they have plans. This is up from 65.4 percent in 2013 and 66.6 percent in 2014. In the West, 66.7 percent of respondents in 2015 have construction plans, up from 58.7 percent in 2013 and 63.6 percent in 2014. The Midwest also saw an increase for 2015 in the number of respondents who have construction plans, up from 60 percent in 2014 to 61.6 percent in 2015.

There was a decrease from 2014 to 2015 in the percentage of respondents from the Northeast and South Central regions who have construction plans. Some 66.2 percent of South Central respondents have such plans, down slightly from 67.2 percent in 2014. And, 65.5 percent of Northeastern respondents have construction plans, down from 66.1 percent in 2014.

Respondents in the South Atlantic region were not only the most likely to report that they have plans for construction, but also were the most likely to have plans for building new facilities, as well as making additions and renovations. (See Figure 32.) Some 30.1 percent of South Atlantic respondents have plans to build new. They were followed by respondents in the South Central region (28.2 percent of whom plan to build new) and the West (28.2 percent). Some 33.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents have plans to make additions at their existing facilities. They were followed by those in the South Central region, 31.7 percent of whom have plans for additions. Finally, 51.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents are planning renovations, followed by Northeastern respondents, 49.6 percent of whom are planning renovations.


Respondents in the South Central states reported that they would be spending the most on their construction plans, with an average of $5,635,000 for 2015, 40 percent more than the average for all respondents. Likewise, respondents in the South Central region reported the greatest increase in construction budgets from 2014 to 2015, with a rise of 14.3 percent. (See Figure 33.)

The only other region whose respondents reported construction budgets higher than the average for all respondents was the West. These respondents are planning to spend an average of $4,440,000 on construction, 10.3 percent higher than the average for all facilities.

Respondents in the Northeast have the lowest average construction budget, at $3,136,000, 22.1 percent lower than the average for all regions. They were followed by the Midwest, where respondents were planning to spend 14 percent less on construction than all respondents, with an average cost of $3,460,000.

Only respondents in the South Central and South Atlantic regions reported an increase to construction budgets from 2014 to 2015. South Central respondents reported the greatest increase, at 14.3 percent, and South Atlantic respondents reported an increase of 3.9 percent.

Respondents in the Northeast reported the biggest decrease in construction budgets from 2014 to 2015, with a 25.2 percent decrease from an average of $4,195,000 to $3,136,000. They were followed by the West, with a 21.2 percent decrease, and the Midwest, with an 18 percent decrease.

The types of amenities included as part of recreation, sports and fitness facilities sometimes vary a great deal depending on region. In some cases, these differences can easily be explained by the prevailing climate of the region. For example, ice rinks and winter recreation are more prevalent in the Midwest and Northeast, while outdoor swimming pools are most common in the southern states. Other features might have become more popular in one region first, and have since seen a spread into other parts of the country, such as skateparks, dog parks and disc golf courses.

Respondents in the Northeast were the most likely region to include the following features as part of their facilities: outdoor sports courts (59.8 percent have them); natural turf sports fields (55 percent); and synthetic turf sports fields (23.9 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely region to include: open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (52.7 percent); walking and hiking trails (49.6 percent); indoor aquatic facilities (32.4 percent); bike trails (31.7 percent); indoor running tracks (25.9 percent); waterfronts or marinas (23.3 percent); disc golf courses (22 percent); ice rinks (18.1 percent); golf courses (16.4 percent); waterparks (14.2 percent); and skiing or winter recreation areas (10.8 percent).

Respondents in the South Atlantic region were the most likely to include: playgrounds (57.2 percent); park shelters such as gazebos and picnic shelters (54.7 percent); park restroom structures (50.2 percent); outdoor aquatic facilities (40.4 percent); fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (22.2 percent); splash play areas (19.6 percent); nature centers (15.9 percent); and challenge courses and ropes courses (11.7 percent).

Respondents in the South Central region were the most likely to include: classrooms and meeting rooms (64.5 percent); bleachers and seating (63.5 percent); locker rooms (59.6 percent); concession areas (57.1 percent); fitness centers (55.3 percent); Wi-Fi services (54.6 percent); indoor sports courts (52.8 percent); exercise studio rooms (43.6 percent); outdoor running tracks (25.5 percent); and climbing walls (19.1 percent).

Respondents in the West were the most likely to include: community centers or multipurpose centers (39 percent); skateparks (26.7 percent); child care centers (21.3 percent); dog parks (21 percent); campgrounds (16.5 percent); bike or BMX parks (8.9 percent); and amusements such as rides and arcades (4.3 percent).

The 10 features that show the greatest variation between regions include: skateparks (included by 16 percent more respondents in the West than in the South Central region); ice rinks (included by 15.7 percent more respodnents in the Midwest than in the South Atlantic or South Central regions); indoor running tracks (included by 13.5 percent more respondents in the Midwest than in the West); disc golf courses (included by 13.2 percent more respondents in the Midwest than in the Northeast); concession areas (included by 13 percent more respondents in the South Central region than in the West); park restroom structures (included by 12.9 percent more respondents in the South Atlantic region than in the South Central states); park shelters (include by 12.3 percent more respondents in the South Central region than in the West); outdoor aquatic facilities (included by 11.7 percent more respondents in the South Atlantic region than in the Northeast); waterparks (included by 11.5 percent more respondents in the Midwest than in the South Central region); and locker rooms (included by 11.2 percent more respondents in the South Central region than in the West).

Respondents from the Northeast were the most likely to report that they had plans to add features to their facilities over the next three years. Some 45.7 percent of respondents in this region said they had such plans, up from 41.7 percent in 2014. Northeastern respondents are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: playgrounds, fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment, park shelters, Wi-Fi services, concession areas, exercise studio rooms, locker rooms, climbing walls, outdoor aquatic facilities, indoor aquatic facilities, and ice rinks.

Some 44.2 percent of respondents in the West report that they have plans to add features over the next three years. This region also saw the biggest increase in such plans, as just 34.4 percent of Western respondents said they had plans to add features in the 2014 survey. Western respondents are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: dog parks, classrooms and meeting rooms, community or multipurpose centers, indoor running tracks, bike or BMX parks, campgrounds, amusements, skiing and winter recreation, and golf courses.

Some 42.2 percent of South Central respondents report that they have plans to add features over the next three years, up from 38.3 percent in 2014. South Central respondents are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: synthetic turf sports fields, bleachers and seating, open spaces such as gardens and natural areas, waterparks, nature centers, waterfronts and marinas, and child care centers.

Some 42.1 percent of South Atlantic respondents are planning to add features over the next three years, up from 34 percent in 2014. South Atlantic respondents are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: splash play areas, walking and hiking trails, park restroom structures, bike trails, fitness centers, natural turf sports fields, outdoor sports courts, challenge courses and ropes courses, and outdoor running tracks.

Respondents from the Midwest were the least likely to be planning to add features at their facilities over the next three years, though 40.6 percent in 2015 said they had such plans, up from 39.2 percent in 2014. Midwestern respondents are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: disc golf courses, indoor sports courts, and skateparks.

Programming

Most types of programming were most commonly offered in either the Northeast or the West again this year.

Respondents in the Northeast were most likely to offer: fitness programs, educational programs, day camps and summer camps, mind-body/balance programs such as yoga, swimming programs, arts and crafts, sport training, and performing arts.

Respondents in the West were more likely than those in other regions to offer: active older adult programming, teen programming, individual sports activities, aquatic exercise programs, festivals and concerts, daycare or preschool programs, camping, and climbing programs.

Respondents in the South Atlantic region were more likely than others to offer: holiday events and other special events, trips, special needs programs, environmental education, water sports such as kayaking, and therapeutic programs.

Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than other regions to offer: sports tournaments or races, and adult sports teams.

Respondents in the South Central region were most likely to offer: personal training, and nutrition and diet counseling.

Northeastern respondents were the most likely to report that they had plans to add programming options at their facilities within the next three years. Some 34.7 percent of these respondents are planning to add programs. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add: mind-body/balance programs, fitness programs, day camps and summer camps, environmental education, adult sports teams, holiday events and other special events, nutrition and diet counseling, sport training, arts and crafts, trips, performing arts, personal training, aquatic exercise programs, daycare or preschool programs, and swimming programs.

South Atlantic respondents were the second most likely to be planning additional programming options, with 34.5 percent in this region reporting that they had such plans. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add: educational programs, active older adult programming, individual sports activities, sports tournaments or races, special needs programs, water sports, festivals and concerts, youth sports teams, camping, climbing programs, and therapeutic programs.

Western respondents were the third most likely to be planning to add programs at their facilities, with 34.2 percent indicating they had such plans. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add: teen programming.

Respondents in the Midwest and South Central states were least likely to be planning to add programs at their facilities over the next three years. Some 30.9 percent of Midwestern respondents and 26.8 percent of South Central respondents reported that they had such plans. The three most commonly planned programs among Midwestern respondents include fitness programs, educational programs and mind-body/balance programs. The three most commonly planned programs among South Central respondents include mind-body/balance programs, day camps and summer camps, and educational programs.



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