Itís the Economy, Stupid

I know, I know. It's really been more than a decade since Bill Clinton's presidential campaign found success using this phrase to point out the problems of the previous Bush administration. But it's ringing out again lately as the credit crisis and housing crunch—along with rising energy costs, food costs and other economic woes—put a squeeze on the economy.

And it was the economic turmoil—and the resulting budget crunch—more than anything else that respondents to our second annual State of the Industry survey said they were worried about. And most of their other concerns seemed to flow outward from there. "Money," said one respondent. "It impacts everything."

In your hands, you are holding the results of our newly expanded, second annual State of the Industry Report survey. Last year we took our first comprehensive look at the trends taking place behind the scenes at recreation, sports and fitness facilities. This year, we collected the same—and more—data, building on last year's survey to include entirely new sections.

We start by taking a look at the major issues for all facility types: revenues, operating budgets, participation levels, facility plans, staffing issues, programming trends. After a quick glance at regional trends and a look at the differences between urban, suburban and rural facilities, we take things one step further to discuss specific types of organizations.

Along with the facilities we covered last year, this year we introduce some new sections. The first of these deals specifically with trends in swimming pools and other aquatic facilities, which more than half of our 2,003 respondents reported including as part of their operations. This is followed by sections on parks and recreation, colleges and universities, and schools and school districts. And in another change from last year, this year we break out YMCAs from health and fitness clubs into two separate sections, in a nod to the two categories' very different modes of operation—for-profit and nonprofit.

But despite all the differences—between diverse facilities, between regions of the country and among different types of communities—the question of the economy loomed largest, the one unifying factor across all operations this year. Facility managers, program directors, club owners and park commissioners all are concerned that the crunching economy is going to have a major impact on people's ability to take part in recreational activities. Whether it means the public will have fewer dollars to spend on fun and fitness, or government entities will have fewer tax dollars to devote to providing parks and playgrounds, there is agreement that a slow economy is bad news for recreation, sports and fitness facilities.

So where's the silver lining? Despite the bad economic news, around three-quarters of all respondents still have plans to build something new, add on to what they've got, or take care of renovations over the next three years. And they're planning to spend significant dollar amounts on those plans. They're also planning to add new and creative programs to meet growing community needs—from addressing the problem of obesity across all age groups to building environmental literacy and getting kids of all ages outside again.

So despite an economy that is making it harder for recreation, sports and fitness professionals to achieve their goals, they're still putting a plan in place to get things done. And that's good news.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director

Thanks for Your Help

We'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the thousands of readers who took the time to respond to our survey, as well as experts from across the industry who weighed in with their opinions on the current trends in managed recreation, sports and fitness facilities.

Twenty-eight respondents to our reader survey were lucky enough to win one of two prizes: a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses or a stadium blanket!

We welcome anyone who is interested in getting involved in future industry reports and salary surveys. If you'd like to weigh in next time with your opinion send an e-mail to and let us know your name, title and the type of facility you work for.

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