Feature Article - June 2007
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General Survey Results

rom the child swinging on the school playground, to the teen climbing a wall at the community center, to the professional working out on the elliptical machine and weight circuit at the local health club, to the retiree biking on a countywide system of trails, the reach of recreation is vast. We look to recreation, sports and fitness facilities to help us get more active, to strengthen our sense of community, to educate our children about sportsmanship, leadership and more-so much more.

Stepping back from the specifics to take a broader view-to look at the forest, rather than the individual trees-can give us a good idea of where things stand in the managed recreation industry. It can help the local park district director benchmark her facilities against others across the nation. It allows the owner of a health club on the west coast to compare staffing issues and operations costs to others in his area, and in the same types of community. It allows the YMCA director in SmallTown USA to see what's big in the big city, and up the ante in terms of offerings for local patrons. It can give us new ideas for creative programming, as well as reassure us that we're staying on top of all the latest and greatest goings-on. It gives us a place to go to see what's hot, as well as what's up-and-coming at other facilities. Splash play areas? Check. Park structures, trails and playgrounds? Check. Mind-body programming and more focused fitness for teens and older adults? Check.

To gauge the state of the managed recreation industry-from parks and recreation departments to universities, schools, YMCAs, health clubs and more, we asked our readership to take part in a confidential survey. We asked them about every aspect of their operations-from costs and budgets to staffing and certification, from planned upgrades and amenities to programming choices. Survey respondents were invited to participate via e-mail and fax, and ultimately, nearly 2,000 people responded.

The results of that survey, as well as analysis from our editorial team and experts across the country, are gathered here in this special report. Read on to learn more about where you stand in the industry today.

About Our Respondents

People from the industry from across the United States answered our questions, with a handful representing international facilities. The largest number (31.9 percent) were from the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin).

The next largest group in terms of representation were the Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming), with 19.5 percent.

The Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) was represented by 19.2 percent of respondents.

South Atlantic states, including Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia, made up 15.7 percent of respondents.

Another 12.7 percent of respondents came from South Central states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas).

Finally, 1 percent of respondents represent international facilities (many of which include military installations or bases overseas). (See Figure 1.)

Respondents also came from a variety of communities, from urban centers to rural areas. The largest number of respondents (42.7 percent) were from suburban communities. Another 32 percent were from rural areas, while just over a quarter (25.3 percent) work for facilities in urban areas. (See Figure 2.)