Trends in Sports & Recreation Centers

Community and private recreation and sports centers were represented by 12.4% of the respondents to the Industry Report survey. More than half (56%) said they were with public or governmental organizations. Another 22.7% were with private, nonprofit facilities, and 18.7% were with private, for-profit facilities. The remaining 2.7% worked for “other” types of organizations.

Respondents from rec centers were most likely to be located in the West or Midwest, with 27.8% of these respondents reporting from the Western U.S., and another 27% reporting from the Midwest. Another 19.8% were from the Northeast, while 16.7% were from the South Atlantic region. The smallest number of rec center respondents—8.7%—were from the South Central region.

Rec center respondents were most likely to work in suburban communities, with 43.7% indicating they were located in the suburbs. Another 28.6% were from urban communities, and 27.8% were located in rural areas.

Rec center respondents were more likely than others to report that they had partnered with other organizations. Some 89% of rec center respondents in 2023 said they had formed partnerships, up from 83.3% in 2022. This compares with 83.8% of non-rec-center respondents who had formed partnerships in 2023. The most common partners for rec and sports centers were: local schools (65.5% of rec center respondents had partnered with schools); nonprofit organizations (57.2%); corporate or local businesses (49.7%); local government (49%); and colleges and universities (31.5%). 

Revenues & Expenditures

Unlike most other respondents, rec center respondents were more likely in 2023 than in 2022 to report that their revenues had decreased year-over-year. One-fifth (20%) of rec center respondents saw their revenues fall in 2021, and in 2022, more than a quarter (25.8%) said their revenues had declined. Another 23.3% said they saw no change to their revenues from 2021 to 2022, and just over half (50.8%) reported an increase.

Looking forward, 69.4% of rec center respondents expect to see their revenues increase in 2023, while 23.1% are anticipating no change and 7.4% expect a decrease. And in 2024, 67.9% are expecting revenues to rise, while 29.5% are expecting no change, and just 2.7% expect a decrease.

In 2022, rec center respondents spent an average of $1,276,000 on their annual operating expenses. The highest reported operating cost was $12 million, and the median cost was $620,000.

Looking forward, rec center respondents expect their average operating cost to increase by 21.9% in 2023, to an average of $1,555,000. They expect a further 8.9% increase in 2024, bringing their average annual operating expense to $1,693,000.

More rec center respondents in 2023 than in 2022 said they had taken action to reduce their operating costs over the past year. Some 84.9% in 2023 said they had taken such action, up from 79.2% in 2022. The most common measures rec center respondents had used to reduce their costs include: increasing fees (49.6%); reducing their hours of operation (32.8%); improving their energy efficiency (31.1%); putting construction or renovation plans on hold (29.4%); and reducing staff (26.1%).

Rec Center Facilities

Nearly six in 10 (58.1%) rec center respondents in 2023 said they had plans for construction over the next few years, up from 55.4% in 2022. Around a third (33.8%) said they were planning renovations, while 29.4% were planning additions to their existing facilities, and 26.5% were planning new construction.

On average, rec center respondents were planning to spend $7,731,000 on their construction plans. The highest planned construction budget was $50 million, and the median cost was $1 million.

The 10 features most commonly included at rec and sports center respondents’ facilities include: classrooms and meeting rooms, Wi-Fi services, bleachers and seating, playgrounds, exercise studio rooms, locker rooms, fitness centers, indoor sports courts, outdoor sports courts, and open spaces like gardens and natural areas.

Nearly half (48%) of rec center respondents in 2023 said they had plans to add more features to their facilities over the next few years. This compares with 46.4% of non-rec-center respondents, and is up from 25% in 2022.

The most commonly planned additions were:

  1. Park shelters (19.4%)
  2. Synthetic turf sports fields (18.1%)
  3. Indoor sports courts (16.7%)
  4. Splash play areas (15.3%)
  5. Playgrounds (15.3%)
  6. Bleachers and seating (15.3%)
  7. Climbing walls (15.3%)
  8. Park restroom structures (13.9%)
  9. Fitness trail or outdoor fitness equipment (13.9%)
  10. Classrooms and meeting rooms (13.9%)
  11. Community gardens (13.9%)
  12. Exercise studio rooms (13.9%)