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

When asked about the various initiatives their organizations are involved in, respondents chose the following:

  1. Wellness initiatives (57.2%)
  2. Inclusion initiatives for those with physical disabilities (49.3%)
  3. Outreach to underserved populations (44.6%)
  4. Outreach to economically disadvantaged populations (44.1%)
  5. Inclusion initiatives for those with developmental disabilities (42.7%)
  6. Outreach to minority populations (39.3%)
  7. Initiatives to connect people with nature (33.6%)
  8. Resource conservation and green initiatives (32.9%)
  9. Initiatives to reduce hunger/improve nutrition (22%)
  10. Disaster recovery assistance (16.4%)

The greatest increases from 2019 were seen in: inclusion initiatives for those with physical disabilities (up 4.3 points); initiatives to reduce hunger and improve nutrition (up 3.3); disaster recovery assistance (up 3.2); outreach to minority populations (up 3.1); and outreach to economically disadvantaged populations (up 2.7).

Challenges, Then & Now

Typically, the top concern for most survey respondents is finding ways to do more with less—maximizing budgets to pay for their facilities, staff, programs and services.

This year, respondents in January said their top five concerns were: equipment and facility maintenance (58.4%, up from 55.8% in 2019); staffing issues (54.5%, up from 53.2%); marketing and increasing participation (40.1%, virtually unchanged from 40.4% in 2019); safety and risk management (34.4%, up from 31.9%); and creating new and innovative programming (29.3%, down from 32.2%).

Beyond these top five concerns, the areas of concern that saw the greatest increases were: environmental and conservation issues (up 2.2 points to 13.1%); and social equity and access issues (up 1.6 to 10%).

Of course, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of respondents likely would answer differently today. In our Update Survey taken in early May, we asked respondents what actions they've taken due to the impact of COVID-19. The vast majority have closed facilities, whether that means temporarily closing all facilities (69.2%), temporarily closing some facilities (27.2%), or permanently closing facilities (1.2%). More than eight in 10 (81.7%) have put programs or services on hold, while 34.3% have cut programs or services entirely. Nearly two-thirds (65.7%) have put hiring plans on hold, while 44.8% have laid off or furloughed staff. More than one-third (34.3%) have put construction plans on hold. (See Figure 32.)

We also asked respondents to the Update Survey about the kinds of activities, programs and services they were involved in as a result of COVID-19. Two-thirds (66.7%) said they had added online fitness and wellness programming. Nearly four in 10 (39%) were involved in programs to address food insecurity. And more than one-quarter (25.8%) were involved in programs to provide educational support to out-of-school children. (See Figure 33.)