Feature Article - June 2018
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2018 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

A Look At What's Happening in Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facilities

By Emily Tipping


From 2017 to 2018, only camps and parks saw an increase in the percentage of operating costs recovered via revenues. For camps, that percentage grew from 67.3 percent to 73.4 percent; and for parks, it increased from 43.4 percent to 43.9 percent.

Predictably, respondents from private, for-profit organizations earn back the greatest share of their operating costs via revenues, at 63 percent. However, this is down significantly from 2017, when these respondents said they earned back 70.4 percent of their costs. Nonprofits in 2018 said they recover 60.5 percent of their costs via revenues, representing very little change from 2017, when they recovered 60.2 percent of costs. Public organizations also reported very little change, reporting an average cost recovery of 43 percent in 2018, compared with 43.2 percent in 2017.

While a majority of respondents (80.5 percent) reported that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses in the past year, that number fell from 83.3 percent in 2017. In fact, the number of respondents who report taking action to reduce expenses has fallen gradually from a high of 91.4 percent in 2010. Respondents may have been more likely to act then in order to address budgetary challenges created by the downturn in the economy, while as the economy has recovered, such projects, while still common, take on less urgency.

The most common action taken to reduce expenditures, as always, was by improving energy efficiency. Nearly half (48.3 percent) of respondents said they had improved energy efficiency in the past year in order to reduce operating expenses, down from 52.7 percent last year. Other common methods respondents turned to in order to reduce their operating costs included: increasing fees (41.8 percent), reducing staffing levels (28.5 percent), and putting construction or renovation plans on hold (25.9 percent). (See Figure 15.) Smaller numbers of respondents said they had cut programming or services (17.1 percent), reduced their hours of operation (16.6 percent), shortened their season (7.3 percent) or closed facilities entirely (4.8 percent).


Respondents from Ys, community centers and health clubs were the most likely to report that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 88.9 percent of Ys, 87.5 percent of community centers and 86.4 percent of health clubs said they had taken such action. They were followed by camps (82.1 percent had taken action to reduce expenses), parks (80.9 percent) and colleges and universities (76.2 percent). Respondents from schools were the least likely to report that they had taken action to reduce operating expenses, though nearly three-quarters (72 percent) had done so.

Respondents from Ys were the most likely to report taking several different kinds of action in order to reduce their operating expenses, including improving energy efficiency (63 percent of Ys had done so in the past year), increasing fees (54.3 percent), reducing staff (39.5 percent) and cutting programming or services (24.7 percent). Camps were the most likely to report that they had put construction plans on hold (35.7 percent). Colleges were the most likely to indicate that they had reduced their hours of operation (25.6 percent). Parks were the most likely to have shortened their season of operation (10.8 percent). And finally, schools were the most likely to report that they had closed facilities (6.7 percent).

Facility Usage & Membership

Around six in 10 respondents said they currently charge a fee for membership or for using their facilities. Some 59.5 percent said they charge a fee, down slightly from 60.1 percent in 2017. (See Figure 16.)

Respondents from Ys, health clubs and community sports and recreation centers were the most likely to report that they charge a fee for membership or for using their facilities. Some 97.5 percent of Y respondents, 86.4 percent of health club respondents and 69.2 percent of community center respondents said that they charge a fee for membership or use. They were followed by parks, 59.5 percent of which charge a fee.

Conversely, schools, colleges and camps were the least likely to charge a fee. Some 22.5 percent of schools, 57.1 percent of colleges and 58.8 percent of camps said they charge a fee for using their facilities.

Of those respondents who currently charge a fee for membership, more than two-thirds said they neither increased nor decreased those fees from 2016 to 2017. Some 67.5 percent said their fees remained the same over that time period, while 31 percent reported that they had increased fees. (See Figure 17.)