Feature Article - June 2020
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2020 Report on the State of the Managed Recreation Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


After dropping fairly steadily for the past decade, the percentage of respondents who reported that they had taken action to reduce their operating expenses in the past year increased in 2019. This even before COVID-19 began having an impact on facilities and budgets. Some 81.2% of respondents in January said that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures, up from 80.3% in 2019.

More than half (50.8%) of respondents said they had improved energy efficiency in order to reduce expenditures. As in most years, this was the most common action taken. It was followed closely by increasing fees, an action taken by 45.4% of respondents. More than one-quarter of respondents said they had reduced staffing levels (29.7%) or put construction or renovation plans on hold (26.1%). Fewer respondents had taken other actions, such as reducing their hours of operation (18.2%), cutting programs or other services (17.6%), shortening the season (7.8%) or closing facilities (4.7%). (See Figure 17.)

We also asked respondents in our Industry Survey Update questionnaire about similar actions they've taken in light of the COVID-19 emergency. You'll find a summary of those responses under the "Challenges, Then & Now" section, beginning on page 32.

In January's survey, respondents from Ys, camps, health clubs and parks were the most likely to report that they had taken action to reduce their expenditures. Some 90.6% of Ys, 87.8% of camps, 81.1% of health clubs and 80.6% of parks said they had taken such action. Respondents from colleges and schools were less likely to indicate that they had taken action to reduce their expenses, though more than three-quarters (76.9% of colleges and 76.3% of schools) had done so.

Respondents from Ys were more likely than others to report that they had improved energy efficiency (67.1% of them had done so), increased fees (65.9%), reduced staff (48.8%), or cut programs and services (23.5%).

Respondents from colleges were more likely than others to report that they had reduced their hours of operation (33.1%) or closed facilities entirely (5.8%), while those from camps were most likely to report that they had put construction or renovation plans on hold (34.7%) and parks were the most likely to report that they had shortened their season of operation (10.1%).

Facility Usage & Membership

As is generally the case, around six in 10 respondents said they currently charge a fee for membership or for using their facilities. Nearly six in 10 (59.4%) respondents said they currently charge a fee, up slightly from 58.2% in 2019. (See Figure 18.)

Respondents from Ys, health clubs and colleges were the most likely to report that they charge a fee for membership or for using their facilities. Some 94.2% of Y respondents, 86.5% of health club respondents and 66.9% of college respondents said they charge a fee for membership or use.

Conversely, schools were the least likely to charge a fee, though the percentage who do so increased substantially from 2019. Some 26.3% of school respondents said they charge a fee for using their facilities, up from 18.7% in 2019.