Feature Article - June 2007
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Fit Facilities

IHRSA also is supporting current legislation that aims to create tax incentives to get more people into health clubs to improve America's general physical fitness.

"By working to remove the barriers to exercise and increase the personal and financial incentives to exercise, we hope to encourage even greater growth in health club membership in the years to come," Moore added.

Many survey respondents said they were concerned about rising costs of energy and other economic challenges that might lead to declining memberships. One director of fitness and recreation for a New York-based JCC said, "As the result of the economy, discretionary dollars will decrease, ultimately effecting membership and program participation in the health, wellness and fitness industry."

YMCAs and health clubs were far more likely than the general survey respondents to charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities. One-hundred percent of YMCA respondents said they charge a fee, while nearly 97 percent of health clubs and sports clubs said they charge a fee. This compares to less than two-thirds of the general survey respondents who charge a fee for membership or usage of their facilities.

But here the similarity between YMCAs and health clubs stops, with regard to fees. Far more YMCAs than health clubs raised their fee in 2006, and the same will hold true for 2007 and 2008, according to our respondents. Nearly two-thirds of respondents from YMCAs said they raised their fee in 2006, while just over a third of health clubs raised their fee. In 2007, 68.8 percent of YMCAs raised their fee, compared to just over half of health clubs. And in 2008, two-thirds of YMCAs are anticipating a fee increase, compared to less than half of health clubs.

Likely because of their private nature, YMCAs and health clubs were more likely than other respondents to report higher revenues for 2006, and also were far more likely to be projecting revenue increases for 2007 and 2008. While just over half of the general survey population said their revenues had increased between 2005 and 2006, nearly three quarters of YMCAs and health clubs saw an increase. By 2008, 83 percent of YMCAs and health clubs project revenue increases, compared to less than 65 percent of general survey respondents.

This likely explains why respondents from health clubs and YMCAs were far less likely to report budgets as their primary concern now, as well as in the next three years. While 67.6 percent of all respondents said budgets were their primary current concern, just 47.4 percent of health clubs and 52.7 percent of YMCAs said this was their top current concern. In the next three years, 56.5 percent of all survey respondents said budgets would be a primary concern, compared with just over 35 percent of health clubs and YMCAs.

Interestingly, while health clubs and sports clubs reported lower-than-average yearly operating expenditures, YMCAs reported much higher-than-average expenditures. In addition, while health clubs projected slower rates of increase in their operating expenditures between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2008, with an increase of 6.1 percent from $1,150,926 to $1,221,635, YMCAs reported faster rates of increase, at 11.3 percent, from $1.9 million to $2.2 million. (See Figure 40.)