Feature Article - June 2019
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2019 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


Respondents from parks and recreation districts and departments reach the largest population size, serving an average of 118,600. They were followed by camps, with an average population size of 91,660; recreation centers, with 79,620; and health clubs, with 72,130. The smallest populations were found among colleges and universities (22,420) and schools and school districts (36,160).

Respondents were most likely to report from public organizations, such as parks and recreation districts and departments, public universities and school districts. Nearly three-quarters (73.6 percent) of respondents said they were with public organizations. (See Figure 4.) They were followed by those working for private nonprofit organizations. Some 17.8 percent of respondents represent private nonprofits, such as Ys, Boys & Girls Clubs, JCCs and other similar facilities. Finally, 8.2 percent of respondents reported from private, for-profit organizations, which includes facilities like health clubs, resorts, waterparks and others.

The largest percentage of respondents were from parks and recreation departments, park districts and similar organizations. Nearly half (47.9 percent) of respondents said they represented parks. (See Figure 5.) They were followed by respondents from colleges and universities (10.6 percent); schools and school districts (9.8 percent); community or private recreation and sports centers (7.8 percent); campgrounds, RV parks and private or youth camps (5.2 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5.2 percent); and sports, health, fitness and medical fitness clubs (3.4 percent). Smaller numbers of respondents reported from other types of facilities, including: golf and country clubs (1.9 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.3 percent); military installations (1.1 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.1 percent); ice rinks (0.8 percent); homeowners associations (0.6 percent); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.4 percent); racquet and tennis clubs (0.4 percent); and stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.1 percent). Another 2.4 percent of respondents said they work for "other" types of facilities.

As you might expect, given the nature of their operations, some facility types are more likely to be found in certain types of communities. The most obvious example is camp facilities, 64.4 percent of which were located in rural communities. Schools and school districts were also more likely to be located in rural communities, with more than half (53.7 percent) indicating they were from rural areas.

Rec centers were most commonly found in the suburbs, with 47.3 percent indicating they were located in suburban communities. They were followed by respondents from parks, 45.8 percent of which were in suburban communities, and health clubs, with 45.6 percent located in the suburbs.

Colleges and universities were the only facility type that is more commonly found in urban areas than in other types of communities. Some 37.5 percent of college respondents said they were located in an urban community.

Likewise, when it comes to organizational structure, some types of facilities are more likely to be public or government-based organizations, while others are more likely to be nonprofit or for-profit organizations.

Nearly all (98.1 percent) park respondents indicated that they were with public organizations. They were followed by respondents from schools and school districts, 89.9 percent of whom represented public school districts. In addition, 64 percent of respondents from colleges and universities said they were with public schools.

Respondents from Ys were the most likely to report that they were a nonprofit organization, with 93.2 percent of Ys, and similar facilities like JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs, indicating that they were private nonprofits. They were followed by camp facilities, more than half of which (52.1 percent) are operated as private nonprofits. In addition, 30.7 percent of college and university respondents said they worked for private schools.

Finally, private for-profit organizational structures were most commonly found among health clubs (45.8 percent of which operate as for-profit facilities), and camps (28.8 percent).