Regional Information

A Look at Regional Trends


Although each region of the country encompasses a wide range of respondents, when it comes to some types of trends particularly in terms of costs for construction, prevalent features, usage and more, it can be useful to break information down by region to take a closer look.

The regional distribution of the more than 1,700 people who responded to the Industry Report survey is slightly different from the U.S. Census Bureau's population distribution as of 2016, with more weight given to the Midwest in our survey responses.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2016, 17.4 percent of the population is located in the Northeast, 21 percent in the Midwest, 37.9 percent in the South and 23.7 percent in the West. In our 2017 Industry Report survey, 16.3 percent of respondents were from the Northeast, 29.9 percent from the Midwest, 34.4 percent from the South (with 20.2 percent from South Atlantic states and 14.2 percent from South Central states), and 18.6 percent were from the West. Another 0.7 percent of our respondents were located outside of the United States.

Respondents from the South Central and South Atlantic regions were the most likely to be from urban communities. Some 27.8 percent of South Central respondents and 27.5 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they were located in urban areas. They were followed by those from the West, 26.5 percent of whom were from urban areas, and the Midwest (21.2 percent). Respondents from the Northeast were the least likely to be located in urban communities (16.5 percent).

Respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic regions were the most likely to be located in suburban communities, with 57 percent of Northeastern respondents and 44.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents reporting in from the suburbs. They were followed by respondents in the West (40.1 percent) and South Central regions (38.4 percent). Respondents from the Midwest were the last likely to be from suburban communities, though more than one-third (36.8 percent) said they were located in the suburbs.

Midwestern respondents were far more likely than others to report in from rural areas. Some 42.2 percent of respondents in the Midwest said they were located in rural communities. They were followed by South Central respondents (33.9 percent) and Western respondents (33.4 percent). Among those from the Northeast and South Atlantic states, just 26.5 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively, said they were from rural communities.

There was fairly wide variation in the average population size for respondents from different regions. Respondents in the South Atlantic, West and South Central regions all had an average population reached of more than 100,000 people, with smaller population sizes reported in the Midwest and Northeast. The largest average population was found among South Atlantic respondents, at 118,500. They were followed by the West (113,500) and South Central region (106,900). Respondents in the Northeast reported the smallest average population served, at 68,300. They were followed by the Midwest, at 82,900.

Interestingly, though respondents in the Midwest were among those reporting a smaller average population size in both 2016 and 2017, these respondents saw a sharper increase in their average population than any other region from one year to the next. In the Midwest, the average population reached by respondents was up 26.6 percent from 2016 to 2017, from 65,500 to 82,900. These were followed by those in the West, whose average population grew 22.4 percent, from 92,700 to 113,500. Much smaller increases were seen among respondents from the South Atlantic region (up 9.7 percent from 108,000 to 118,500); the South Central region (up 5.5 percent, from 101,300 to 106,900); and the Northeast (up 3.6 percent, from 65,900 to 68,300).

While respondents from all of the regions were most likely to be from parks and recreation facilities, the concentration of facility types does vary from one region to another. For example, those in the West are far more likely to be from parks and recreation organizations than those in the Northeast, while Northeastern respondents are far more likely to be from YMCAs than those in the West. (See Figure 31.)


The Northeast had the smallest number of respondents from parks and recreation, though more than one-third (34.5 percent) of these respondents said they were with parks and recreation facilities. The next largest group of Northeastern respondents were from colleges and universities (14.9 percent). They were followed by YMCAs (13.2 percent), schools and school districts (10 percent), camps (8.5 percent), health clubs (3.9 percent), and community recreation and sports centers (2.8 percent). Another 12.2 percent were from other types of facilities, with Northeastern respondents more likely than other regions to represent ice rinks (1.1 percent of respondents from the Northeast), as well as amusement parks and theme parks (0.7 percent).

In the Midwest, 39.8 percent of respondents were from parks and recreation organizations. The next largest group were representing schools and school districts (14.2 percent). They were followed by colleges and universities (12 percent), community sports and recreation centers (8.1 percent), Ys (7.4 percent), camps (6.6 percent), and health clubs (3.1 percent). Another 8.8 percent were from other types of facilities, with Midwestern respondents being more likely than other regions to represent racquet and tennis clubs (0.6 percent).

Some 44.5 percent of South Atlantic respondents were from parks and recreation facilities. The next largest group were from colleges and universities (12.4 percent). They were followed by community sports and recreation centers (7.2 percent), camps (6.4 percent), Ys (6.1 percent), schools and school districts (5.8 percent) and health clubs (4.1 percent). Respondents from the South Atlantic were the most likely to say they were from "other" types of facilities, with 13.5 percent coming from other facility types. Among these, South Atlantic respondents were more likely than any other region to represent resorts and resort hotels (2.3 percent), and military installations (2 percent).

In the South Central region, 36.5 percent of respondents were from parks and recreation facilities. These respondents were the most likely to represent colleges and universities, with 17.2 percent of respondents in this region indicating this was their facility type. They were followed by schools and school districts (11.9 percent), community sports and recreation centers (8.6 percent), health clubs (5.7 percent), Ys (5.7 percent), and camps (4.1 percent). Another 10.3 percent of South Central respondents represented other types of facilities. Those that were more likely to be found in the South Central states than in other regions include churches (1.6 percent), waterparks (0.8 percent), and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.8 percent).

In the West, around half of the respondents (50.5 percent) said they were from parks and recreation organizations. The next largest group in this region was from community sports and recreation centers (8.4 percent). They were followed by colleges and universities (6.9 percent), camps (6.9 percent), health clubs (6.2 percent), schools and school districts (5.6 percent), and Ys (3.1 percent). Another 12.4 percent of Western respondents were from other types of facilities. They were more likely than respondents from other regions to be from golf and country clubs (2.8 percent).

A substantial majority of respondents in all regions indicated that they form partnerships with outside organizations. Those in the West were most likely to do so, while those in the Northeast were the least likely to form partnerships.

Nearly nine out of 10 (89.2 percent) respondents in the West said that they had partnered with outside organizations. Western respondents were more likely than those in other regions to report that they had partnered with local schools (64.2 percent), nonprofit organizations (51.9 percent), health care or medical facilities (22.2 percent), or private health clubs (5.4 percent).

Some 87.2 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they had partnered with outside organizations. They were more likely than those in other regions to partner with the military (16.2 percent).

In the Midwest, 87.1 percent of respondents said they had partnered with other organizations. They were more likely than those from other regions to partner with local government (57.1 percent).

Some 86.5 percent of South Central respondents said they had partnered with other organizations. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to partner with colleges and universities (39.3 percent), state government (38.1 percent) and the federal government (22.5 percent).

Respondents from the Northeast were the least likely to report that they had partnered with outside organizations, though a majority (84.5 percent) had done so. They were more likely than those in other regions to indicate that they had partnered with corporate or local businesses (35.6 percent) and Ys (21.9 percent).

Respondents in all regions were most likely to report that their facilities reach an all-ages audience. Western respondents were the most likely to report that they serve an all-ages audience (45.6 percent), followed by respondents in the South Atlantic region (42 percent). They were followed by the Midwest (39.1 percent), Northeast (37.7 percent) and South Central (35.1 percent) regions.

Respondents in the South Central region were more likely than those in other regions to indicate that their primary audience was made up of children ages 4 to 12. Some 20.8 percent of South Central respondents named this age group as their primary audience, followed by the Northeast (19.9 percent). Respondents in the West were most likely to primarily reach an adult audience. Some 19.1 percent of Western respondents named this as their primary audience, followed by those in the South Atlantic (17.5 percent). College students were most likely to be the primary audience for respondents in the South Central region (14.7 percent), followed by the Northeast (14.6 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to say teens were their primary audience, with 12.7 percent of respondents in this region saying they primarily reach teens. They were followed by the Northeast (10.7 percent). Finally, seniors were more likely to be the primary audience for Western respondents than for other regions, with 4.4 percent of those in the West saying they primarily reach seniors.

Budgets & Utilization

While respondents from the South Central region were the most likely to report increasing usage from 2014 to 2015, respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2015 to 2016, and also were the most likely to project further increases in 2017 and 2018. (See Figure 32.) They were followed by respondents in the West.


From 2015 to 2016, 60 percent of South Atlantic respondents said the number of people using their facilities had grown. They were followed by the South Central region (55 percent) and the West (53.4 percent). More than half of respondents in the Northeast (52 percent) and the Midwest (50.4 percent) also said their facilities had seen a growing number of users from 2015 to 2016.

Looking forward, respondents from the South Atlantic states continue to be most likely to expect further increases to the number of people using their facilities, with 63.9 percent projecting an increase in 2017 and 64.4 percent projecting an increase in 2018. They were followed by the West, where 60.6 percent expect an increase in 2017 and 58.6 percent expect an increase in 2018. Respondents from the Midwest were least likely to expect an increase in 2017, though nearly half (49.6 percent) said they expect usage to increase that year. Respondents in the South Central region were least likely to expect an increase in 2018, with 50.5 percent reporting they expect the number of people using their facilities to increase in that year.

Respondents in the West employ the largest average number of people, while those in the Midwest have the smallest staffs. On average, respondents in the West have 155 employees. They were followed by the South Atlantic (153.8) and the South Central region (149.5). Midwestern have the fewest employees, with an average of 136, followed by the Northeast (139.9).

As was the case in 2016, respondents from the South Atlantic and Western regions were the most likely to indicate that they had plans to add staff over the coming year. Some 26.4 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they had such plans (up from 21.6 percent in 2016), while 21.8 percent of Western respondents said they would be adding staff (up from 20.3 percent). They were followed by South Central respondents, where 20.4 percent said they had plans to increase staff (up from 18.9 percent in 2016), and the Midwest, where 18.6 percent plan to add staff (up from 17.3 percent). Northeastern respondents were least likely to be planning staff additions at their facilities, with 17.4 percent indicating they had such plans (up from 13 percent in 2016).

Respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2015 to 2016. Nearly half (49.7 percent) of respondents in this region said revenues had increased in that time period. They were followed, though not closely, by the West (43.7 percent of whom said revenues increased from 2015 to 2016), the Midwest (42.5 percent), the South Central region (41.8 percent) and the Northeast (41.6 percent). South Central respondents were more likely than other regions to report a drop in revenue from 2015 to 2016, with 15.9 percent indicating their revenues had fallen.

Looking forward, South Atlantic respondents continue to hold the top spot in terms of revenue increased, with more than half expecting an increase in 2017 (53.2 percent) and in 2018 (54.5 percent). They were followed by Western respondents, 53.2 percent of whom expect an increase to revenues in 2017, and 49.5 percent of whom expect an increase in 2018. From 2016 to 2017, 47.3 percent of Northeastern respondents, 43.3 percent of South Central respondents and 42.4 percent of Midwestern respondents are expecting their revenues to increase. And from 2017 to 2018, 48.7 percent of South Central respondents, 47.8 percent of Northeastern respondents and 43 percent of Midwestern respondents are expecting a revenue increase.

Respondents from the South Atlantic states had the highest average operating expenditure in fiscal 2016, at $2,509,000, 22.7 percent higher than the average for all regions. They were followed by respondents in the West, whose average operating expenditure of $2,215,000 was 8.4 percent higher than the average for all regions, and the South Central states, whose average operating expenditure of $2,089,000 was 2.2 percent higher than the average for all respondents. Respondents in the Northeast had the lowest average operating cost for fiscal 2016, at $1,647,000, which is 19.4 percent less than the average for all respondents. They were followed by the Midwest, spending 15.5 percent less than all regions, at $1,728,000. (See Figure 33.)


Looking ahead, respondents from the Northeast and Western regions are expecting the greatest increase in their average operating expenditure between 2016 and 2018. Respondents in the Northeast projected a 5.9 percent increase in that time frame, to an average of $1,744,000. Western respondents projected a 5.6 percent increase, to an average of $2,340,000. Respondents in the other regions were expecting more modest increases, with South Central respondents projecting a 3.3 percent increase to an average operating expenditure of $2,157,000; Midwestern respondents projecting a 2.3 percent increase to an average of $1,768,000; and South Atlantic respondents projecting a 1.8 percent increase, to an average of $2,554,000.

Respondents in the West once again earned back the highest percentage of their operating costs via revenue, while those in the South Central region held their spot as the region earning back the lowest percentage of operating costs via revenues. In the West, respondents reported that they earned an average of 53.1 percent of their operating costs back via revenues (up from 52.4 percent in 2016). They were followed by the Midwest (50.7 percent, up from 49.6 percent), the Northeast (50.2 percent, up from 50 percent), and the South Atlantic region (48.5 percent, up from 47.6 percent). Only respondents in the South Central region reported a decrease in the percentage of operating costs they earn back via revenue from 2016 to 2017. This year, South Central respondents said they earn back an average of 45.6 percent of their costs, down from 46.1 percent in 2016.

Respondents from the West, Midwest and Northeast were the most likely to report that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenditures, though a majority of respondents in all regions had done so. Some 85.9 percent of respondents in the West, 84.7 percent in the Midwest and 84.7 percent in the Northeast said they had taken such actions. They were followed by the South Atlantic region, where 81.1 percent said they had taken action to reduce expenditures. Respondents in the South Central states were the least likely to indicate they had taken such actions, though 78.4 percent said they had done so.

In addition to being the region most likely to have acted in any way to reduce their expenditures, respondents from the West were the most likely to report that they had improved energy efficiency (55.9 percent), reduced staff (33.5 percent), cut programs or services (21.7 percent), reduced hours of operation (19.5 percent), or closed facilities (7.7 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than those from other regions to report that they had put construction plans on hold (31.3 percent) or shortened their season of operation (8.6 percent). Finally, those in the Northeast were the most likely to report that they had increased fees (49.6 percent).

Construction Plans

Respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to report that they had plans to build new facilities, or to make additions or renovations to their existing facilities. Some 73 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they had such plans, up from 69 percent in 2016. They were followed by those in the South Central region, where 69.8 percent had construction plans (up from 67.3 percent); the Northeast, where 69 percent had plans (up from 62.8 percent), and the West, where 67 percent had construction plans (down from 69.6 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were least likely to indicate they were planning construction, with some 65.6 percent saying they were planning construction (up from 64.9 percent). (See Figure 34.)


Respondents in the South were most likely to be planning to build new, with 33.9 percent of South Central respondents and 32.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents reporting they were planning new construction. They were followed by the Midwest (28.9 percent) and West (26.2 percent). Respondents in the Northeast were least likely to be planning new construction, with 23.1 percent indicating they had such plans.

Plans for additions to existing facilities were most prevalent among northeastern respondents, where 33.1 percent said they were planning additions. They were followed by the South Atlantic states (31.9 percent), the South Central region (31.0 percent), and the West (29.9 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were the least likely to be planning additions, with 28.9 percent indicating they had such plans.

South Atlantic respondents were the most likely to report that they had plans for renovations, with 52.6 percent reporting they would be renovating their existing facilities. They were followed by the West (49.8 percent), the Northeast (49.5 percent) and the Midwest (48.7 percent). Respondents from the South Central states were the least likely to be planning renovations, with 46.1 percent reporting they had such plans.

Respondents in the South Central states plan to spend the most on their construction plans, with an average cost of $4,792,000, 11.5 percent higher than the average for all respondents. They were followed by the West, at $4,719,000, 10 percent higher than the average for all respondents. Respondents in other regions were planning to spend less on construction, with those in the Northeast planning to spend an average of $4,174,000 (2.9 percent less than the average for all respondents), those in the Midwest planning to spend $4,002,000 (6.9 percent less), and those in the South Central states planning to spend $3,939,000 (8.4 percent less).

Respondents from the Northeast, South Central states and West saw substantial increases in their construction budgets from 2016 to 2017. The Northeast reported a 58.6 percent increase, while the South Central region saw a 36.4 percent increase, and the West had a 25.9 percent increase. The Midwest also reported an increase to its average construction budget, of 16.3 percent. The only region reporting a decrease to construction budgets between 2016 and 2017 was the South Atlantic, which saw its average construction budget fall by 3.6 percent. (See Figure 35.)


The types of amenities included as part of recreation, sports and fitness facilities can vary quite a bit depending on which region you find yourself in. Many of these differences can be explained by the prevailing climate of each region (further north, you'll be more likely to find ice rinks, while in the south, shade is more of a necessity). Other times, features first arise in one region and then spread from there, such as skateparks and dog parks, which first became prominent in the West.

Respondents in the Northeast were more likely than other regions to feature: outdoor courts (64.8 percent include them), playgrounds (59.1 percent), natural turf sports fields (58.4 percent), walking and hiking trails (53.4 percent), synthetic turf sports fields (24.2 percent), community gardens (22.8 percent), climbing walls (22.4 percent), challenge courses and ropes courses (16.4 percent), ice rinks (16 percent), nature centers (14.6 percent), and amusements like rides and arcades (3.6 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than those in other regions to feature: concessions (54 percent include them), bike trails (33.6 percent), indoor running and walking tracks (25 percent), and disc golf courses (22.7 percent).

Respondents in the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other regions to include: open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (57.5 percent include them), park shelters (52.9 percent) and waterfronts, marinas or beaches (27.6 percent).

Respondents in the South Central region were more likely than other regions to include: bleachers and eating (67.3 percent), fitness centers (63.3 percent), classrooms and meeting rooms (62 percent), locker rooms (61.2 percent), Wi-Fi services (60.8 percent), indoor sports courts (60.4 percent), exercise studios (52.2 percent), indoor aquatic facilities (38.4 percent), outdoor aquatic facilities (36.3 percent), outdoor running tracks (24.1 percent), and waterparks (16.3 percent).

Respondents from the West were more likely than other regions to include: park restroom structures (48 percent), community and multipurpose centers (43.6 percent), skateparks (29.3 percent), fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (26.5 percent), dog parks (25.9 percent), childcare facilities (22.7 percent), splash play areas (21.8 percent), campgrounds (17.8 percent), golf courses (15.9 percent), and skiing or winter recreation areas (11.8 percent).

Respondents from the South Atlantic were the most likely to report that they had plans to add more features to their facilities over the next three years. Some 44.8 percent of respondents in the South Atlantic region said they had such plans. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: splash play areas, fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment, park shelters, fitness centers, park restrooms, classrooms and meeting rooms, community or multipurpose centers, bike trails, locker rooms, concessions, indoor tracks, waterparks, skateparks, nature centers, outdoor aquatic centers, outdoor tracks, childcare centers, and waterfronts, marinas or beaches.

Some 42.7 percent of respondents in the West said they would be adding features at their facilities over the next three years. They were more likely than those in other regions to be adding: playgrounds, Wi-Fi services, exercise studio rooms, disc golf courses, open spaces like garden and natural areas, community gardens, bike or BMX parks, and campgrounds.

In the South Central region, 40.4 percent of respondents said they would be adding features to their facilities in the next few years. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: walking and hiking trails, bleachers and seating, climbing walls, and outdoor sports courts.

In the Northeast, 39.9 percent of respondents plan to add features at their facilities over the next three years. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: synthetic turf sports fields, indoor courts, natural turf fields, ice rinks, and amusement.

Finally, Midwestern respondents were the least likely to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities in the next three years, with 39.6 percent indicating they had such plans. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add dog parks, challenge courses and ropes courses, and skiing or other winter recreation areas.

Programming

Looking at the specific types of programming offered according to region, the West and Northeast were the most likely to provide most of the different program options covered by the study.

Respondents from the West were more likely than those in other regions to offer: youth sports teams, mind-body balance programs like yoga and tai chi, sports tournaments and races, swimming programs, adult sports teams, programs for active older adults, aquatic exercise programs, performing arts, festivals and concerts, daycare and preschool, special needs, environmental education, nutrition and diet counseling, camping, therapeutic programs and climbing programs.

Respondents in the Northeast were more likely than those in other regions to offer: holidays and other special events, day camps and summer camps, arts and crafts, sport training, teen programs, individual sports activities like running clubs or swim clubs, trips, and water sports like canoeing and kayaking.

Respondents in the South Central region were the most likely to provide personal training, while those in the Midwest were the most likely to offer fitness programs.

Northeastern respondents were more likely than other regions to report that they had plans to add programs at their facilities over the next few years. Some 35.2 percent of respondents in the Northeast will be adding programs. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: fitness programs, mind-body balance programs, environmental education, day camps and summer camps, nutrition and diet counseling, personal training, swimming programs, and therapeutic recreation programs.

Respondents in the West were second most likely to be planning to add programs, with one-third (33.3 percent) indicating they had such plans. However, there was no specific program type that was more commonly planned by Western respondents than by those in other regions.

Some 33 percent of South Atlantic respondents are planning to add programs at their facilities. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: educational programs, teen programs, programs for active older adults, holidays and special events, individual sports activities, sports tournaments and races, arts and crafts, sport training, performing arts, youth sports teams, trips and special needs programs.

In the South Central region, 31.8 percent of respondents have plans to add programs, and they are more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: festivals and concerts, water sports, aquatic exercise programs, daycare and preschool, and climbing programs.

Respondents in the Midwest were the least likely to be planning to add more programs at their facilities, with 29.9 percent indicating they would do so in the next few years. They were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add camping programs at their facilities.



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