Feature Article - June 2013
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Regional Information

A Look at Regional Trends

Over the past several years, we have seen the impact of the Great Recession on revenues, spending, hiring and construction plans at recreation, sports and fitness facilities. This year, the numbers begin to appear slightly more stable, though many of the numbers related to spending appear a bit below numbers from before the recession. While it is too early to draw any firm conclusions, it appears as though the industry is settling into a new normal.

That said, there are many factors that could have a dramatic affect on the state of the industry—from budgets at the local, state and federal level to fluctuations in consumer spending, the implementation of the new healthcare law and more.

The most recent numbers from the National Association of State Budget Officers forecast that total general fund revenues at the state level will move beyond peak levels from before the recession in 2013 for the first time since the recession began. But, according to Scott Pattison, executive director of the NASBO, general funds are still not back to where they "need to be." He warned, "Money is going to be tight for the foreseeable future, for several years at least, no matter what happens."

In addition, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, state and local government spending grew at a 0.3 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2012, following 11 straight quarters of contraction.

As local and state spending continues to return to normal, there are still many issues that are depressing spending. Education (both K-12 and higher education) and healthcare represent the two biggest pieces of state spending, according to NASBO, and as these costs continue to increase, other portions of the budget—which can include parks and recreation, grants and more—will likely take the hit.

In this section, we'll take a look at how facilities differ according to the region in which they are found. While this information will be less specific than a state-by-state analysis, it does provide a picture of differences and similarities across the regions of the United States.

Once again, with the exception of the Midwest, Industry Report survey respondents largely represent the regional breakdown according to the most recent Census Bureau numbers from 2010. According to the U.S. Census, 17.9 percent of the U.S. population lives in the Northeast, 21.7 percent in the Midwest, 19.4 percent in the South Atlantic states, 17.7 percent in the South Central states, and 23.3 percent in the West. In 2013, 16.5 percent of survey respondents live in the Northeast, 29.2 percent in the Midwest, 19.6 percent in the South Atlantic region, 13.6 percent in the South Central region and 20.3 percent in the West. Another 0.7 percent of respondents are located outside of the United States.

The community types represented vary a great deal according to region. In the Northeast, more than half of respondents (51.3 percent) are from suburban communities. This compared with 39.9 percent of South Central respondents, 38.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents, 38 percent of Midwestern respondents and 36.6 percent of Western respondents. Some 40.7 percent of Midwestern respondents call rural communities home, compared with 35.1 percent in the South Central states, 32.2 percent in the West, 30.2 percent in the Northeast and 28.5 percent in the South Atlantic region. Finally, 32.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents hail from urban communities, compared with 31.3 percent in the West, 25 percent in the South Central region, 21.3 percent in the Midwest and 18.5 percent in the Northeast.

Public organizations were more likely to be found in the Midwest than in other regions, with 30.6 percent of public respondents indicating they were from that region. It was followed by the West (21.6 percent) and the South Atlantic region (19.2 percent). Respondents from public organizations were far less likely to be from the Northeast or the South Central states, with just 14.7 percent and 13.4 percent of public organization respondents, respectively, indicating they came from those regions.

Private for-profit organizations were more heavily weighted toward the West, Northeast and South Atlantic regions. More than a quarter (26 percent) of private for-profit respondents were from the West, while 21.9 percent were from the Northeast and 20.5 percent were from the South Atlantic states. Just 18.6 percent of private for-profit respondents were from the Midwest, and 10.7 percent were from the South Central states.

Private nonprofit organizations, on the other hand, were most likely to be found in the Midwest, with 30.2 percent of private nonprofit respondents indicating they called this region home. They were followed by the South Atlantic (20.8 percent) and Northeast (19.6 percent). Less than 15 percent of private nonprofit respondents were from the West (14.1 percent) and South Central states (14.8 percent).

Different regions were also weighted more or less heavily toward specific types of facilities. Though parks and recreation was dominant in all regions, this type of facility was far more prevalent among respondents from the West, where 45.7 percent of respondents work for parks, and South Atlantic, with 42.6 percent. By comparison, less than one-third of respondents from the Midwest (33.1 percent) and South Central region (32 percent) were from parks. (See Figure 29.)

When it comes to other facility types, respondents in the Northeast were most likely to represent colleges and universities (16.4 percent) and schools and school districts (13 percent). Those in the Midwest were most likely to represent schools (17.7 percent) and colleges (14.8 percent). In the South Atlantic, respondents were most likely to be from colleges (14.4 percent) or from youth and private camps, campgrounds and RV parks (6.2 percent). In the South Central region, respondents were more likely than any other region to be from colleges (21.3 percent). Another 13.7 percent were from schools. Finally, in the West, some 8.6 percent of respondents were from colleges, while 7 percent were from camps.