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


There is a great deal of variance in the percentage of cost recovered via revenues, with some industry segments obviously relying more heavily on tax dollars, grants and other sources of income, while others receive little support outside of revenues. Respondents from camps, Ys and health clubs are the most effective at covering their operating costs with revenues. Camp respondents recover nearly three quarters (73.3 percent) of operating costs, while Ys earn back 73.2 percent and health clubs earn 69.4 percent. Respondents from schools and colleges recover the smallest percentage of their operating costs, with schools earning back 31.4 percent, and colleges earning 34.5 percent. (See Figure 16.)

While a majority of respondents (80.3 percent) reported that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses in the past year, that number is down slightly from 2018, when 80.5 percent said they had taken such action, and 2017, when 83.3 percent had done so. In fact, the percentage of respondents who report that they have taken action to reduce their expenditures has consistently decreased since 2011, when 90.3 percent said they had done so, again reflecting a strengthening economy.

For the first time since this question was added to the Industry Report survey, improving energy efficiency does not hold the top spot as the most common action taken to reduce expenditures. Or at least, it is not alone at the top. Some 46.8 percent of respondents said they had improved energy efficiency to reduce their expenditures. (See Figure 17.) The same percentage said they had increased fees. Other common methods respondents turned to in order to reduce their operating costs include: reducing staff (28.2 percent) and putting construction or renovation plans on hold (27.7 percent). Smaller numbers of respondents said they had cut programming or services (17.9 percent), reduced their hours of operation (16.4 percent), shortened their season of operation (7 percent), closed facilities (5.3 percent) or taken some other action to reduce expenses (2.8 percent).

Respondents from Ys, camps, rec centers and parks were the most likely to report that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 93.2 percent of Ys, 91.7 percent of camps, 85.2 percent of rec centers and 81.4 percent of parks said they had taken such action. They were followed by respondents from colleges (79.1 percent) and health clubs (78.7 percent). Respondents from schools were the least likely to indicate that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses, though two-thirds (66.7 percent) had done so.

Respondents from camps were the most likely to report that they had improved energy efficiency (63.9 percent) or put construction and renovation plans on hold (43.1 percent) in order to reduce their expenses.

Ys were more likely than those from other industry segments to indicate that they had increased their fees (71.2 percent) or reduced staff (43.8 percent).

Respondents from colleges were much more likely than others to report that they had reduced their hours of operation (28.4 percent) or closed facilities entirely (26.4 percent) in order to reduce their operating costs. They were also more likely than others to report that they had cut programs and services (23.6 percent).

Finally, park respondents were more likely than others to report that they had shortened their season of operation (9.3 percent).