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Regional Information

A Look at Regional Trends


Each region of the country—Northeast, Midwest, South Atlantic, South Central and West—is home to a wide range of respondents, but there are some trends, including construction costs, features and more, that differ enough from region to region to provide the impetus for taking a closer look at the data.

As usual, the response to the survey was more representative of the Midwest than general population trends reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2017, 17.3 percent of the U.S. population is located in the Northeast, 20.9 percent in the Midwest, 38 percent in the South and 23.8 percent in the West. For our 2018 Industry Report survey, 18 percent of the response came from the Northeast, 31.9 percent from the Midwest, 28.6 percent from the South and 21.4 percent from the West. Another 0.1 percent of respondents are located outside of the United States.

Respondents from the South Central and South Atlantic regions were the most likely to report that they are from urban communities. Some 25.4 percent of South Central respondents and 24.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents are located in urban areas. They were followed by those from the West, 21.2 percent of whom are from urban communities. Respondents from the Midwest and Northeast were the least likely to report from urban areas, with 18.2 percent of Midwestern and 19.1 percent of Northeastern respondents being located in urban communities.

Respondents from the South Atlantic and Northeast regions are more likely than those in other regions to be located in suburban communities, with 48.1 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 47.3 percent of Northeastern respondents reporting in from the suburbs. They were followed by respondents in the South Central region (42.1 percent of whom are located in suburban communities), the West (42.1 percent) and the Midwest (40.3 percent).

Midwestern respondents were far more likely than others to report in from rural communities. Some 41.5 percent of respondents in the Midwest said they are from rural areas. More than one-third of Western respondents (36.7 percent), South Central respondents (34.4 percent) and Northeastern respondents (33.6 percent) are also from rural communities. Respondents in the South Atlantic are the least likely to be located in rural communities, with 27.1 percent calling rural areas home.

There is substantial variation in the number of people respondents serve via their facilities depending on the region in which they are located. The largest population size was reported by respondents in the West, who said they reach an average of 112,700 people. They were followed by the South Atlantic, with an average population size of 107,800. Respondents in the South Central region reported an average population size of 85,520. Respondents in the Midwest and Northeast reach the smallest population, with an average of 61,750 and 66,920, respectively.

From 2016 to 2018, most regions reported a decrease in the average number of people reached by their facilities. Only the West and Northeast saw an increase in population size, with populations in the West increasing 21.6 percent, from 92,700 to 112,700, and populations in the Northeast rising 1.5 percent, from 65,900 in 2016 to 66,920 in 2018. The South Atlantic region saw virtually no change in that time period, reporting a slight decrease of 0.2 percent, from 108,000 in 2016 to 107,800 in 2018. The Midwest saw a slightly greater, 5.7 percent decrease, from 65,500 in 2016 to 61,750 in 2018. The greatest decline in number of people reached is found in the South Central region, where respondents said their average population fell 15.6 percent, from 101,300 in 2016 to 85,520 in 2018.

No matter which region they are from, respondents are most likely to be from parks and recreation facilities, but the concentration of facility types does vary slightly from region to region. For example, respondents in the West are far more likely to work for parks than those in the South Central region, and respondents in the Midwest are much more likely to be from schools than those in the South Atlantic (See. Figure 31.)


Some 37.1 percent of respondents in the Northeast are from parks and recreation organizations. The next largest group of Northeastern respondents are from "Other" facility types. They were followed by colleges and universities (12.4 percent) and schools and school districts (11.3 percent). Respondents in the Northeast are more likely than any other region to be from Ys, with 8.5 percent of Northeastern respondents. They also are more likely than others to be from camps, with 7.1 percent. Another 7 percent of Northeastern respondents are from community centers, and 2.8 percent are with health clubs.

In the Midwest, 40 percent of respondents are with parks and recreation organizations. The next largest group are with schools and school districts, at 19.8 percent. They were followed by colleges and universities (9.4 percent), community recreation and sports centers (6.8 percent), Ys (6 percent), health clubs (4 percent) and camps (4 percent). Some 10 percent of Midwestern respondents are from "other" types of facilities, with respondents in this region being more likely than other regions to represent ice rinks (1.2 percent).

Some 43.2 percent of South Atlantic respondents are from parks and recreation facilities. The next largest group are from colleges and universities (9.3 percent). They were followed by schools and school districts (7.3 percent), health clubs (6.2 percent), Ys (5.4 percent), camps (5.4 percent) and community centers (4.3 percent). South Atlantic respondents were more likely than any other region to report that they worked for "other" facility types. Some 18.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they work for some other type of facility. Respondents in this region are more likely than others to represent resorts and resort hotels (2.3 percent), waterparks (1.9 percent), and racquet and tennis clubs (1.5 percent).

Respondents from the South Central region are the least likely to represent parks and recreation facilities, though more than one-third (35.3 percent) said they are with this facility type. The South Central respondents are more likely than others to be from colleges and universities, 15.3 percent. The next largest group are with schools (10.5 percent), followed by camps (6.9 percent), community centers (6.9 percent), health clubs (5.3 percent) and Ys (4.2 percent). Some 15.6 percent of South Central respondents are with "other" facility types, and this region was more likely to be home to golf and country clubs (3.7 percent) and churches (1.1 percent) than any other region.

Respondents in the West are more likely than those in other regions to be with parks. Some 45.8 percent of Western respondents are with park and recreation organizations. They were followed by colleges and universities (8.9 percent), schools and school districts (8.6 percent), community recreation centers (8.6 percent), camps (5.4 percent), health clubs (3.6 percent) and Ys (1.5 percent). Another 17.6 percent of Western respondents are with "other" facility types.

A majority of respondents in all regions indicated that they form partnerships with outside organizations. Those in the West are most likely to do so (88.9 percent said they had partnered), while those in the South Central region are least likely to partner (82.2 percent).

Some 88.9 percent of respondents in the West said they have partnered with outside organizations. Western respondents were more likely than those in other regions to say that they have partnered with nonprofit organizations (50.2 percent), colleges and universities (38.1 percent), state government (37.8 percent), federal government (29.4 percent) and the military (15 percent).

In the Midwest, 87.6 percent of respondents said they have partnered with outside organizations. They were more likely than those in other regions to say that they have partnered with local schools (64.3 percent), local government (54.4 percent), and health care or medical facilities (20.7 percent).

Some 87.2 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they have partnered with other facilities. They were more likely than those in other regions to report that they have partnered with corporate or local businesses (35.8 percent) and Ys (22.6 percent).

In the Northeast, 85.1 percent of respondents said they have formed partnerships with outside organizations. They were more likely than those in other regions to indicate that they partnered with private health clubs (5.7 percent).

Respondents in the South Central region were the least likely to report that they have partnered with outside organizations, though 82.2 percent said they had done so. No partner type was most common among South Central respondents.

In all regions, respondents were most likely to report that their facilities reach an all-ages audience. Western respondents were the most likely to report that they serve all ages (49.5 percent), followed by the South Atlantic region (45 percent), the Northeast (42 percent), the Midwest (41.7 percent) and the South Central region (34.7 percent).

Respondents in the South Central region were the most likely to report that their primary audience was made up of adults. Some 22.1 percent of South Central respondents said adults were their primary audience. They were followed by the South Atlantic (17.8 percent), the Midwest (16.6 percent), the West (16 percent) and the Northeast (12.4 percent).

Children ages 4 to 12 are most likely to be the primary audience for respondents in the Northeast. More than one-fifth (20.1 percent) of Northeastern respondents said this is their primary audience. They were followed by the Midwest (17.4 percent), the South Atlantic (17.1 percent), the West (16.6 percent) and the South Central states (16.3 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to say teens were their primary audience, with 14 percent of Midwestern respondents saying they primarily reach teenagers. They were followed by the Northeast (11.7 percent) and the South Central region (11.1 percent). Just 6.9 percent in the West and 6.6 percent in the South Atlantic region said teens were their primary audience.

College students are more likely to be the primary audience in the South Central region (13.2 percent) and the Northeast (11.3 percent) than any other region. Seniors are more likely to be the primary audience for South Atlantic respondents (4.7 percent). And, interestingly, just one respondent in each region said that the audience they primarily serve is made up of infants and toddlers.

Budgets & Utilization

Respondents in the West and South Atlantic regions were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities increased over the past year, and also were the most likely to expect further increases going forward. (See Figure 32.)


From 2016 to 2017, 60.2 percent of respondents in the West said the number of people using their facilities increased, and 56 percent in the South Atlantic reported an increase. More than half of respondents in the Northeast (50.7 percent) also saw an increase in the number of people using their facilities. Midwestern respondents were the least likely to report an increase (42.8 percent), followed by the South Central region (48.7 percent).

Looking forward, respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to expect further increases, with 60.8 percent expecting an increase in 2018, and 63.9 percent in 2019. They were followed by the West, with 58.8 percent expecting the number of people using their facilities to increase in 2018, and 59.6 percent in 2019. Midwestern respondents continued to be least likely to expect increasing usage at their facilities, with 45.5 percent projecting an increase for 2018, and 43.9 percent for 2019.

Respondents in the South Atlantic and West employ the largest number of people, on average, while those in the South Central region have the smallest number of employees. On average, respondents in the South Atlantic have 122.1 employees, while Western respondents have 121.9. They were followed by the Northeast, with 116.9 employees on average, the Midwest, with 111.9, and the South Central region, with 105.9.

As in 2016 and 2017, respondents from the South Atlantic and the West were the most likely to indicate that they have plans to add staff at their facilities over the coming year. Some 27.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they have such plans (up from 26.4 percent in 2017, while 20.8 percent of Western respondents said they will be adding staff (down from 21.8 percent in 2017). They were followed by the South Central region, where 18.9 percent plan to add staff (down from 20.4 percent); and the Northeast, where 17 percent plan to add staff (down from 17.4 percent). Midwestern respondents are the least likely to be planning to add staff, with 16.4 percent indicating they will do so, down from 18.6 percent in 2017.

Respondents from the West were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2016 to 2017. More than half (50.2 percent) of respondents in the West said revenues had increased in that time period. They were followed by the South Atlantic (41 percent of whom said revenues increased from 2016 to 2017), South Central (39.5 percent), Midwest (38.8 percent) and Northeast (37.3 percent). Respondents in the South Central region were more likely than those in other regions to report a drop in revenue from 2016 to 2017, with 16.2 percent indicating their revenues had fallen.

Looking forward, respondents in the West and South Atlantic are the most likely to expect further increases in revenue. From 2017 to 2018, 51.4 percent of Western respondents and 49 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they expect their revenues to grow. They were followed by respondents in the South Central region (45.5 percent), the Northeast (45.1 percent) and the Midwest (39.9 percent). From 2018 to 2019, 52.7 percent of Western respondents said they expect revenues to increase. They were followed by those in the South Central region (49.1 percent), the South Atlantic (46.3 percent), the Northeast (41.9 percent) and the Midwest (41.4 percent).

Respondents from the South Atlantic states had the highest average operating expenditures in fiscal 2017, at $2,340,000, 30 percent higher than the average for all regions ($1,800,000). They were followed by respondents in the West, whose average operating expenditure of $2,290,000 is 27.2 percent higher than the average for all regions, and the South Central states, whose average expenditure of $1,830,000 is 1.7 percent higher than the average for all respondents. Respondents in the Northeast reported the lowest average operating cost for fiscal 2017, at $1,350,000, which is 25 percent lower than the average for all respondents. They were followed by the Midwest, spending 18.9 percent less than the average for all regions, at $1,460,000. (See Figure 33.)


Looking ahead, respondents in all regions expect their operating expenses to increase between 2017 and 2019, with the greatest increases projected for South Central and Northeastern respondents. South Central respondents projected a 12.6 percent increase to an average of $2,060,000 in fiscal 2019. They were followed by the Northeast, with an 11.1 percent increase to $1,500,000, and the West, where a 10 percent increase will result in an annual operating budget of $2,520,000 on average. Respondents in the South Atlantic region projected a much more modest 3 percent increase to an average of $2,410,000 in 2019. Midwestern respondents reported that they expect no change to their average operating costs between 2017 and 2019.

Respondents in the Midwest earn back the highest percentage of their operating costs via revenues, while those in the South Central region once again held their spot as the region earning back the lowest percentage of operating costs. In the Midwest, respondents reported that they earn an average of 50.1 percent of their operating costs back via revenues (down slightly from 50.7 percent in 2017). They were followed by the Northeast (49.9 percent, down from 50.2 percent), the South Atlantic (47.9 percent, down from 48.5 percent), and the West (47.2 percent, down from 53.1 percent). Only respondents in the South Central region reported an increase in the percentage of operating costs they earn back via revenue from 2017 to 2018. In 2017, South Central respondents said they earn back an average of 45.6 percent of their costs, and in 2018, that number rose to 46 percent.

Respondents from the Midwest and West were the most likely to report that they have taken action in the past year to reduce their operating expenditures, though a majority of respondents in all regions have done so. Some 83.4 percent of Midwestern respondents and 82.7 percent of Western respondents said they have taken such actions. They were followed by the South Atlantic region, where 78.7 percent of respondents have taken action to reduce expenses. Respondents in the South Central region and the Northeast are the least likely to have acted to reduce expenses, with 76.3 percent and 76.8 percent, respectively, indicating they have done so.

Respondents from the West are the most likely to have taken several specific actions to reduce their operating expenses, including increasing fees (52.4 percent), reducing staff (33 percent), cutting programs or services (24.5 percent) and reducing hours of operation (22.4 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than those from other regions to indicate that they acted to improve energy efficiency (54.2 percent) or shortened their season of operation (8.8 percent) in order to reduce costs. Respondents in the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other locations to indicate that they had put construction or renovation plans on hold (29.5 percent). And respondents in the Northeast were more likely than others to say that they had closed facilities (5.1 percent).

Construction Plans

Respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to report that they had plans for construction. Some 78 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they had such plans, up from 73 percent in 2017. They were followed by those in the West, where 72.3 percent have construction plans (up from 67 percent); and the South Central region, where 71.1 percent have construction plans (up from 69.8 percent). Less than two-thirds of respondents in the Midwest (66.1 percent, up from 65.6 percent) and Northeast (64.7 percent, down from 69 percent) have construction plans. (See Figure 34.)


As in 2017, respondents in the South are the most likely to be planning to build new, with 36.3 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 32.1 percent of South Central respondents reporting they are planning new construction. They were followed by the West (27.4 percent). Less than one-quarter of respondents in the Midwest (24.8 percent) and Northeast (24.4 percent) said they were planning new construction.

Plans for additions to existing facilities are most prevalent among respondents in the West, where 31.8 percent said they would be making additions to existing facilities. They were followed by the Northeast (30.7 percent) and the South Central region (30.5 percent). Respondents in the Midwest and South Atlantic are the least likely to be planning additions, though more than a quarter of respondents in each region (27.3 percent in the Midwest and 28.2 percent in the South Atlantic) said they will do so.

Renovations to existing facilities are most commonly planned by South Atlantic and Western respondents, where 57.9 percent and 53.6 percent of respondents, respectively, said they will be renovating their existing facilities. They were followed by the Midwest (49.7 percent) and South Central (48.4 percent). Respondents in the Northeast are the least likely to be planning renovations, with 47.3 percent reporting they have such plans.

Respondents in the West plan to spend the most on their construction plans, with an average cost of $4,890,000, 14 percent higher than the average for all respondents ($4,290,000). They were followed by the South Atlantic, at $4,580,000, 6.8 percent more than the average for all respondents, and the Midwest, at $4,360,000, 1.6 percent higher. Respondents in the Northeast and South Central plan to spend less than the average for all respondents, with those in the Northeast indicating they have a construction budget of $3,900,000 (9.1 percent lower than the all-respondents average), and those in the South Central region reporting a budget of $3,070,000, 28.4 percent less.

Respondents from the South Atlantic region, the Midwest and the West all reported increases in their budgeted construction amount between 2017 and 2018. The greatest increase was seen in the South Atlantic, where construction budgets rose 16.3 percent. That region was followed by the Midwest, with an 8.9 percent increase, and the West, at 3.4 percent. Northeastern respondents reported a 6.6 percent decrease to their construction budgets. The greatest decrease was seen in the South Central region, at 35.9 percent, though interestingly, South Central construction budgets have been rather volatile over the past four years. (See Figure 35.)


The types of amenities included as part of recreation, sports and fitness facilities sometimes vary 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 are more likely than those in other regions to feature: outdoor sport courts (63.5 percent include them); natural turf sports fields (57 percent); open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (54.2 percent); community gardens (24.9 percent); synthetic turf sports fields (23.8 percent); climbing walls (22 percent); childcare facilities (18.4 percent); challenge courses and ropes courses (14.1 percent); and skiing and winter recreation areas (7.6 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest are more likely than those from other regions to feature: locker rooms (64.5 percent include them); concessions (61.7 percent); indoor tracks (26.8 percent); outdoor tracks (25.6 percent); ice rinks (17.4 percent); and waterparks (14.1 percent).

Respondents from the South Atlantic region are more likely than those in other regions to include: playgrounds (63.9 percent); classrooms and meeting rooms (63.1 percent); Wi-Fi services (61.1 percent); park shelters (58 percent); park restroom structures (55.3 percent); walking and hiking trails (52.9 percent); exercise studios (51.4 percent); waterfronts and marinas (24.7 percent); golf courses (17.6 percent); nature centers (12.9 percent); and amusements (3.9 percent).

Respondents in the South Central region are more likely than other regions to include: bleachers and seating (62 percent); indoor sport courts (58.8 percent); fitness centers (58.3 percent); outdoor aquatic facilities (45.5 percent); indoor aquatic facilities (33.7 percent); disc golf courses (27.3 percent); and splash play areas (25.1 percent).

Respondents in the West are more likely than those from other regions to include: community or multipurpose centers (41.6 percent); bike trails (32 percent); skateparks (29.3 percent); dog parks (26 percent); fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (23.7 percent); campgrounds (16.2 percent); and bike or BMX parks (11.1 percent).

Respondents from the South Central region were the most likely to report that they have plans to add more features to their facilities over the next three years. Some 51.6 percent of South Central respondents said they have such plans, up significantly from 40.4 percent in 2017. They are more likely than other regions to be planning to add: synthetic turf sports fields, fitness centers, playgrounds, dog parks, exercise studios, bike trails, Wi-Fi services, concessions, outdoor sport courts, challenge and ropes courses, waterparks, outdoor aquatic facilities, campgrounds, waterfronts and marinas, and amusements.

Nearly half (47.1 percent) of South Atlantic respondents said they have plans to add features, up from 44.8 percent in 2017. They are more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add: splash play areas, fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment, bleachers and seating, classrooms and meeting rooms, open spaces like natural areas, natural turf sports fields, indoor aquatic facilities, skateparks, community gardens, nature centers, and golf courses.

Some 44 percent of respondents in the West said they plan to add features at their facilities over the next three years, up from 42.7 percent in 2017. They are more likely than those in other regions to be adding walking and hiking trails, park shelters, park restroom structures, bike and BMX parks, childcare centers, and ice rinks.

In the Northeast, 42.8 percent of respondents plan to add features at their facilities over the next three years, up from 39.9 percent in 2017. They are more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add disc golf courses, climbing walls, locker rooms, outdoor tracks, and skiing and winter recreation areas.

The percentage of Midwestern respondents with plans to add features at their facilities fell from 39.6 percent in 2017 to 38.1 percent in 2018. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add indoor sport courts, community or multipurpose centers, and indoor tracks.

Programming

Looking at specific types of programming offered according to region, the Northeast and Midwest are the most likely to provide programming to visitors or members of their facilities.

Respondents in the Northeast are more likely than those in other regions to provide: day camps and summer camps; swimming programs; arts and crafts; teen programming; trips; and climbing programs.

Respondents in the Midwest are more likely than those in other regions to provide: youth sports teams; educational programs; and daycare and preschool programs.

South Atlantic respondents are more likely than those in other regions to provide: fitness programs; mind-body/balance programs like yoga and tai chi; sports tournaments and races; active older adult programming; sport-specific training like golf or tennis lessons; environmental education programs; nutrition and diet counseling; water sports such as canoeing or kayaking; and therapeutic programs.

Respondents in the South Central region are more likely than those in other regions to offer personal training.

Finally, respondents in the West are more likely than those in other regions to provide: holiday events and other special events; adult sports teams; aquatic exercise programs; individual sports activities such as running clubs; festivals and concerts; performing arts programs; special needs programming; and camping.

Respondents in the South Central region are the most likely to be planning to add programming at their facilities over the next few years, with 35.3 percent indicating they have such plans. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to add: educational programs; mind/body balance programs; teen programming; environmental education; individual sports activities; nutrition and diet counseling; arts and crafts; camping; and therapeutic programs.

Some 34.2 percent of respondents in the West are planning to add programs at their facilities. They are more likely than those in other regions to add: fitness programs; festivals and concerts; water sports like kayaking and canoeing; and climbing programs.

Just over a third (33.6 percent) of South Atlantic respondents said they have plans to add programs. They are more likely than those from other regions to add: special needs programs; adult sports teams; holiday events and other special events; youth sports teams; and personal training.

Some 29.7 percent of Northeastern respondents said they plan to add programs at their facilities. They are more likely than those in other regions to be planning the addition of sports tournaments and races, aquatic exercise programs, and performing arts programs.

Respondents in the Midwest are the least likely to be planning to add programs, though nearly three in 10 (29.3 percent) said they do have such plans. They are more likely than those in other regions to add: day camps and summer camps; active older adult programs; daycare and preschool programs; swimming programs; and trips.



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