Feature Article - June 2008
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A Look at What's Happening in Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facilities

Money Money Money-and Other Concerns

Budgets were in fact the top concern of most respondents, and understandably so. Between rising energy costs, decreasing tax dollars and discretionary funds for people to spend on recreation, it's no wonder recreation, sports and fitness facilities are feeling the pinch.

One parks superintendent from Oregon put it succinctly: "Budgetary concerns have an effect on all of the other concerns and are tied together."

Another recreation supervisor from California also cited budgeting as the top issue of concern, saying, "The current fiscal problems will not be going away anytime soon. With the retirement of so many baby boomers the institutional knowledge to solve some of these problems will require the reinvention of the wheel in many instances."

A Texas-based park operations analyst added that her district is "facing increasing expectations, interest in new and higher service levels, without the expectation of resources being available."

The second top concern among survey respondents was equipment and facility maintenance. Some said they were operating in facilities that are 25 to 50 years old or more, and the budget for replacing older infrastructure simply isn't available.

A recreation and parks director in California said, "Demand for facilities are at an all-time high and they are used constantly. General maintenance of facilities, repairs and upgrading to meet code is the greatest concern due to lack of funding available.

A YMCA property director said expansion was an issue for his facility, adding, "We are operating a 42,000-square-foot facility with 11,000-plus members. Things are kind of cramped!"

A coach and pool and fitness center manager at a Vermont college said the current facilities needed to be upgraded, but there are not sufficient resources to make "significant changes." He added, "We are attempting to make as many low-budget cosmetic improvements as possible, however we have severe budgetary limitations."

Going hand-in-hand with these problems is the ability to market one's facility and attract and retain patrons, which was listed as the third top concern among survey respondents.

Some respondents whose facilities focus on specific sports, such as tennis and golf, said there was a need to get more people interested in those sports.

One general manager at a country club said the "current flattening of golf participation" was a chief concern. "Obviously this has a tremendous impact on us as a country club, and if we can't increase participation, our revenue stream cannot keep up with rising costs of doing business."

A YMCA program director in Massachusetts said the top issue for her facility was "getting families to choose to spend their money here over all the other options out there."

The fourth top concern among survey respondents was staffing. Many said they had a hard time finding qualified staff or problems with retention. Others had issues due to seasonal employment.

One respondent said "recruiting enough volunteers to meet our needs" was his top problem, adding, "This is always a concern, but right now it is becoming more and more difficult."

Another recreation superintendent in Wyoming said that solving staffing issues would help improve programming. Her top issue was "securing quality, motivated staff who can progressively and effectively initiate new programs within our division."

A respondent from a college in Virginia said that staff motivation was an issue. "We have a new type of staff that wants high pay for little work."

Finally, one respondent said a "lack of qualified applicants entering our industry is a concern."