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Feature Article - June 2019
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2019 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


Over the past 13 years, we have collected and reported a great deal of information through our State of the Industry Report. Based on an extensive survey that collects information and opinions from a wide range of professionals working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry, this report brings you the most up-to-date information and trends in the industry, and because we've been collecting data for more than a decade, we can provide a broad look at how some things have remained the same, while others have changed over time. Here in these pages, you'll find that information—everything from budgets and staffing to construction plans, programming, and much more.

In the wake of the Great Recession, around a decade ago, the Industry Report survey results shifted, revealing facilities in a holding pattern as they adjusted to new pressures on operating budgets and revenues, as well as participation and construction plans. In the past several years, many of the facilities we cover here have moved forward, recovering and even thriving in the new normal that arose as the economy has recovered and thrived. Revenues have increased, construction plans have moved forward, and recreation, sports and fitness facilities have been able to devote themselves not only to maintaining their operations, but also to expanding their programming and even reaching out to expand their audiences.

In these pages, we provide a detailed look at the responses collected via our annual 50-question survey. Here, you'll get a look into the current state of affairs in the industry, with a hint of future trends that may have an impact on the management, operations, construction, programming, marketing, staffing and initiatives of recreation, sports and fitness facilities, from parks and rec centers to aquatic facilities, Ys, health clubs, schools, camps and beyond.

Before we dig in, let me take this moment to extend my gratitude to each reader who took the time to participate in the survey. We know it's a daunting task and are grateful that you took the time to provide detailed information on your own facilities and operations. The fact that so many participate fully every year shows just how important the industry is to you, and that the results reported here are meaningful. Thank you!

We start here, with a general summary of the survey results, reporting on how the entire survey population of more than 1,400 respondents answered questions, and making occasional comparisons between respondents from different cohorts. After this section, you'll find further examination of the data broken down by facility type, beginning on page 36 with a deeper look at responses from respondents whose facilities include aquatic elements. After that, we dive into the responses from the largest facility-type cohorts in the survey population. This includes parks and recreation organizations, colleges and universities, schools and school districts, health clubs, and Ys, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs.

It's a lot of data, but if you need more, head over to the RecManagement.com website, and you'll find further discussion of responses from camp facilities and community centers. And, as always, we bring you a weekly dose of research in the Rec Report newsletter, highlighting a different data point every week. (Is there something you'd like to know? Shoot us a message at editor@recmanagement.com, and we'll see if we can find the answer in the data.) Finally, don't forget to stay tuned next month, when we'll report in our annual Salary Survey on the career and salary trends of these respondents.