Feature Article - June 2017
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State of the INDUSTRY

A Look at What's Happening in Recreation, Sports and Fitness Facilities

By Emily Tipping

Every June, we bring you the results of our extensive survey to present the State of the Industry Report. Now in its 11th year, the report summarizes the opinions and information provided by a wide range of professionals working in the recreation, sports and fitness industry. Here is our most up-to-date information, offering an in-depth glimpse into various facets of the market, including budgets, staffing, building plans, programs and more.

With the onset of the Great Recession nearly 10 years ago, the Industry Survey results reflected a big hit to operating budgets, revenues, construction plans and, let's face it, optimism about the future. But as the economy began to recover, things have gradually turned around. To be sure, things have recovered more quickly in some sectors of the industry than others, but at this point, across the board, most facilities have adapted to the new realities. This includes, in some cases, finding ways to reduce operating costs, partnering with other organizations to achieve more with less, and earning more revenue to support operations. But in terms of optimism, one can see in the growing number of respondents who plan to build new or renovate existing facilities, as well as those who plan to add staff and programs, that the recreation, sports and fitness industry is made up of innovative, evolving and forward-looking professionals.

Over the course of these 70- or 80-something pages, we'll provide a detailed look at the responses collected via our annual survey, showing you the current state of affairs, as well as providing an idea of future trends that will have an impact on the management, construction, planning, programming, marketing, staffing and operations of recreation, sports and fitness facilities, from parks and campgrounds to recreation centers and fieldhouses, from aquatic parks and sports fields to health clubs and community centers.

Before we get into the thick of it, let me take a moment to express my deepest gratitude to the readers who took the time to participate in our extensive survey. The fact that you will take the time to provide this detailed information makes it clear that this industry is important to you, and that the end result, which you hold in your hands, matters. We could never put together this report without you. Thank you!

The report begins with a general summary of the survey results, considering how the entire survey population of more than 1,700 respondents answered. In addition, here and there we will break down survey responses to show how they vary in terms of organization type, community type and industry sector. Then, on the following pages, we'll break the data down and take a closer look at more specific information. This begins on page 40 with a look at the results broken down by regions of the country. From there, we'll take an in-depth look at the responses from participants whose facilities include aquatic elements (see page 50). After that, we'll break things down according to the largest segments of our survey population, which includes parks and recreation organizations (see page 64), colleges and universities (see page 72), schools and school districts (see page 78), health clubs (see page 84), and Ys, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (see page 88). Once you've waded through all of this information, head over to our website at RecManagement.com, where we'll provide exclusive online stories looking more closely at camps and community centers. Also, stay tuned in to our Rec Report newsletter, where we'll provide additional information that is not published in this report. And finally, be sure to keep an eye out for the July 2017 issue, where we'll discuss career and salary trends in our annual Salary Survey report.

Who Are You?

For the most part, respondents typically represent higher-level positions within their organizations. Nearly one-third (32.7 percent) of respondents said their job title was "director." Just over one-fifth (20.8 percent) are in administration and management positions, including titles such as administrator, manager and superintendent. Some 16.5 percent of respondents are operations/facility managers, with titles including operations manager, facility manager, building manager or supervisor. Program and activity administration roles are held by 9.3 percent of respondents, including titles such as activity or program director, manager, coordinator, specialist, coach or instructor. Another 8.9 percent of respondents said they are the chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner of their organization. Some 3.3 percent of respondents are faculty or teachers. Just 0.7 percent of respondents are in service roles, which includes planners, designers, architects and consultants. Finally, 7.8 percent of respondents said they have "other" job titles in their organization.

Given that the majority of respondents hold positions of higher responsibility and achievement, we can also assume that the majority of respondents have plenty of experience on the job. And, in fact, respondents reported that they have been in their current position for an average of 11.3 years, and have 21.7 years of experience in the recreation, sports and fitness industry.

The largest number of respondents in 2017 were from the Midwest, though that number did fall slightly from 2016. Nearly three in 10 (29.9 percent) of respondents in 2017 were from the Midwest, compared with 31.2 percent in 2016. This includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (See Figure 1.)