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


From 2018 to 2019, respondents from rural communities reported the steepest increase to their operating costs. The average operating cost for rural respondents in 2019 was $1,430,000, 40.2% higher than the average reported for 2018, $1,020,000. Urban and suburban respondents also reported a substantially higher average cost in 2019, with suburban respondents reporting a 16.7% increase from $2,150,000 in 2018 to $2,510,000 in 2019, and urban respondents reporting a 13.8% increase, from $2,390,000 in 2018 to $2,720,000 in 2019.

Looking forward, rural respondents continue to expect the steepest increase in their operating costs, projecting a 9.8% increase from 2019's average to $1,570,000 in 2021. They were followed by suburban respondents, who expect operating costs to increase 5.6%, to an average of $2,650,000 in 2021. Urban respondents projected an increase of 2.9%, to an average of $2,800,000 in 2021.

After being the only category of respondents to report an increase in average operating expenses in 2018, respondents from the Midwest were the only respondents in 2020 who reported a decrease to their average operating expenses in 2019. Midwestern respondents reported an average operating expenditure of $1,800,000 in 2019, 7.7% lower than the average for 2018 of $1,950,00. The steepest increase to the average expense from 2018 to 2019 was reported by those in the Northeast, who saw a 41.3% jump to $1,780,000. They were followed by those from the South Atlantic (reporting a 31.5% increase), the West (29%) and the South Central region (28.2%). (See Figure 13.)

Looking forward, Midwestern respondents continue to be the only region expecting operating expenses to either hold steady or fall, projecting a 1.1% decrease from fiscal 2019 to 2021, to an average of $1,780,000. The greatest increase was expected by respondents in the South Central region. South Central respondents projected a 15% increase to their average operating expense, to $2,610,000 in 2021. They were followed by respondents in the Northeast (projecting a 9.6% increase), the South Atlantic (6.9%), and the West (4.8%).

From fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2019, respondents from parks, schools, Ys and rec centers reported increases to their average operating expenditures, while those from camps, health clubs and colleges saw decreases. The greatest increase was seen among school respondents who reported an average operating expenditure of $2,450,000 in 2019, 87% higher than the average reported in 2018. They were followed by rec centers, reporting an increase of 26.2% to an average of $1,540,000 in 2019; parks (up 13.8% to $2,310,000); and Ys (up 5.3% to $2,780,000). The greatest decrease was reported by camp respondents who had an average operating expense of $1,080,000 in 2019, 21.2% lower than the average reported in 2018. They were followed by health clubs, down 20.8% to an average of $1,330,000; and colleges, down 2.7% to an average of $2,170,000. (See Figure 14.)

Looking forward, only health club respondents expect their operating costs to decrease between 2019 and 2021. They projected a 3.8% drop, to an average of $1,280,000 in 2021. The greatest increase was expected by respondents from camps, who projected a 10.2% increase to an average operating expenditure of $1,190,000 in 2021. They were followed by Ys (up 8.3% to $3,010,000 in 2021), rec centers (up 7.8% to an average of $1,660,000), parks (up 6.1% to $2,450,000), colleges (up 5.1% to $2,280,000) and schools (up 3.3% to $2,530,000).