Feature Article - June 2009
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General Survey Results

The Economy's Impact

When last year's survey was released, the word "recession" was beginning to be tossed around, but there was as yet no consensus that we were in the midst of one. That has changed this year, and the numbers in this year's survey definitely indicate that the down economy is having an impact on facilities.

A majority (88.1 percent) of respondents across all categories indicated that they are either extremely or somewhat concerned about the impact the recession will have on their facilities. (See Figure 9.)

More than 90 percent of respondents from YMCAs (96 percent), camps (91.7 percent) and parks and recreation organizations (90.7 percent) said they were either somewhat or extremely concerned. Colleges and universities, on the other hand, were less likely that other types of respondents to report high levels of concern, though more than three-quarters (78.2 percent) of respondents in this category were either somewhat or extremely concerned about the impact of the downturn on their facilities.

What actions are facilities taking in light of their concerns?

Many indicated that they are looking at or have already made budget cuts and staffing cuts. Some also reported increasing the fees they charge for their programs and memberships or decreasing the level of service provided to patrons. While some indicated they had plans to close facilities down completely, many more said they were shortening seasons or reducing the hours their facilities were open.

Interestingly, many respondents reported taking an opposite approach to offer more to the public: more programs and discounts to attract new and returning patrons. Additionally, many indicated making a push to improve or increase their marketing efforts and their customer service levels.

While some respondents said they were being forced to cut back on capital spending, others said they were aiming to spend money wisely, by investing in improved energy efficiency. Some were taking simple steps to improve efficiency, for example by turning off lights, while others were investing in systems to improve their energy efficiency, such as solar heating for swimming pools and automation for facility heating and cooling systems.