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


While the largest percentage of respondents in 2019 (44.7 percent) said their facilities serve all ages, the next largest group (18.8 percent) said they primarily serve children ages 4 to 12. Another 15 percent said they reach adults ages 19 and up. Smaller percentages said their primary audience was made up of college students (9.8 percent), teens ages 13 to 18 (8.7 percent), seniors 65 and older (2.6 percent), and infants and toddlers younger than 4 (0.4 percent). (See Figure 11 on page 17.)

Given the different nature of the programs and services offered by different facility types, it comes as no surprise to find that some are more likely to serve specific audiences (such as college students or adults) than others.

Respondents from parks were the most likely to report that they serve all ages, with 59 percent indicating that this is their primary audience. They were followed by Ys (56.2 percent) and recreation centers (45 percent).

Children ages 4 to 12 were most likely to be the primary audience for recreation centers, 25.7 percent of whom said they primarily reach children. They were followed by parks (25 percent) and camps (23.3 percent).

Adults from age 19 to 64 were most likely to be the primary audience for health club respondents, with 57.4 percent indicating this is the main audience they reach. They were followed by Ys, at 21.9 percent.

College students, obviously, were most likely to be the primary audience for college and university respondents, 90.7 percent of whom said this was their main audience. Teens were the predominant audience for schools and school districts (57.2 percent). And seniors were more likely to be the primary audience at recreation centers (6.4 percent) than other facility types.

Revenues & Expenditures

Since 2013, the percentage of respondents who report increasing revenues year-over-year has risen, from 39.5 percent to a projected 51.2 percent in 2020. At the same time, the number reporting that their revenues have fallen has dropped from 14.8 percent in 2013 to just 4.4 percent in 2020. (See Figure 12.) This represents a significant recovery from the lows reflecting the impact of the Great Recession, which occurred in 2011. In 2011, just 37 percent of respondents saw their revenues increase, while more than one-fifth (20.8 percent) reported a decrease in revenues.

The year 2018 saw a slight jump in the number of respondents reporting lower revenues, with 11.8 percent indicating their revenues had fallen, up from 11.1 percent in 2017. At the same time, the percentage who reported an increase climbed from 41 percent to 42.3 percent.

Looking forward, respondents tend to be more positive. Some 46.6 percent are expecting revenues to increase in 2019 (with 6.7 percent projecting a decrease), and 51.2 percent expect an increase in 2020 (vs. 4.4 percent). However, it should be noted that in every year the survey has been taken, the percentage projecting increases has been slightly higher than the percentage who actually report an increase in that year. For example, when the survey was taken in 2018, 45.4 percent of respondents said they expected their revenues to increase in that year. This compares with 42.3 percent who actually reported an increase in that time frame in the 2019 survey.