REGIONAL TRENDS

Here, There and Everywhere

A Look at Regional Trends in Managed Recreation, Fitness and Sports Facilities

The U.S. Census Bureau projects populations to grow fastest in the South and the West over the next 20-some years, and in our survey these regions were the most likely to report growth in the number of people using their facilities, as well as their revenues and costs. But with the economic downturn, and the crunch in housing costs and resulting decrease in tax revenues, many in these same regions are concerned about maintaining their service levels and their existing facilities as their budgets face cuts.

Once again in this year's survey, the population distribution of respondents was similar to U.S. Census data from the year 2000, again with an exception for the Midwest, which was represented by more respondents than other regions. (See Figure 25.)

Between 2000 and 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau projects populations to grow fastest in the South, driven largely by growth in the South Atlantic states, including Florida, where population is projected to grow by 79.5 percent, putting Florida ahead of New York as the third largest state in the country. North Carolina and Georgia are also projected to be among the top 10 fastest-growing states. Growth in the South Central region will be driven by the state of Texas' growing population, which is projected to be the fourth fastest, increasing its population by nearly 60 percent over the next 20-plus years.

The Census Bureau also projects faster population growth in the West. Nevada and Arizona are projected to be the top two fastest-growing states, increasing their populations by 114.3 percent and by 108.8 percent, respectively, between 2000 and 2030. Other Western states among the top 10 fastest-growing states include Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. And of course, California will remain the most populous state, growing at a rate of 37.1 percent over the next 20-plus years.

Less population growth is expected in the Northeast and Midwest, so that the distribution of the U.S. population will change by 2030 to be even more heavily concentrated in the South and the West, with 39.4 percent of U.S. residents residing in the South (21.5 percent of those in the South Atlantic states), 25.3 percent residing in the West, 19.4 percent in the Midwest, and 15.9 percent in the Northeast.

As populations grow across Southern and Western states, recreation, fitness and sports facilities will have to adjust to increasing participation.

Across all respondents, 41 percent represented parks and recreation organizations, but this number skews much higher among respondents from the South Atlantic and the West, where just under half of responses came from parks and recreation professionals. The region with the fewest parks and recreation respondents was the South Central region, where 34.3 percent represented this type of organization.

Some 13.5 percent of respondents from all regions represent colleges and universities, but in the South Central region, respondents were far more likely to work for a college or university. More than 20 percent of respondents in this region said they worked for such a facility. In the Northeast, 16.1 percent said they worked for a college or university, and in the Midwest and South Atlantic states, numbers fell closer to the national averages. Respondents from Western states were least likely to work for a college or university. Less than 10 percent of respondents from that region said they represented a college or university facility.

For all respondents, 12.3 percent worked for health, fitness or sports clubs, as well as private recreation and sports facilities. This number is well dispersed throughout the regions of the United States, with a high of 14.1 percent in South Central states and a low of 12.3 percent in the Northeast.

Schools and school districts were represented by 10.4 percent of the entire survey population, a number that reaches as high as 12.7 percent in the Midwest and drops as low as just 2.7 percent of South Atlantic states and just 5.1 percent for the West.

Respondents from campgrounds, RV parks and private camps were more heavily concentrated in the Midwest and West, where 7.8 percent and 7.7 percent of respondents, respectively, worked for such facilities, compared to a national percentage of 6.4 percent. The fewest respondents from camping-related facilities were in the South Central states, where just 4.2 percent represented this type of organization.

YMCAs, YWCAs and JCCs were represented more heavily in the Northeast, where 9 percent reported working for such organizations, compared with just under 6 percent of all respondents. Respondents from the Midwest were also more likely to work for YMCAs. More than 7 percent of Midwestern respondents said they worked for such facilities. The fewest YMCA respondents were found in the West, where just 2.6 percent of respondents worked for such facilities.


Figure 26: Type of Facility / Organization by Region
NORTHEASTMIDWESTSOUTH
ATLANTIC
SOUTH
CENTRAL
WEST
Parks & Rec/Community Rec/Sports Ctrs35.3%37.8%49.3%34.3%48.0%
College/University16.1%13.2%12.5%20.1%9.2%
Health/Fitness/Sports Club, Racquet/Tennis Club/ Corp./Private Rec/Sports Clubs12.3%12.7%13.3%14.1%13.9%
School/School Dist10.4%12.7%2.7%12.1%5.1%
Campground/RV Park/Youth/Private Camp6.0%7.8%5.0%4.2%7.7%
YMCA/YWCA/JCC9.0%7.3%4.5%5.4%2.6%
Military Installation2.7%0.8%4.0%1.7%3.1%
Golf/Country Club2.1%2.3%2.9%4.6%3.6%
Resort/Resort Hotel1.8%1.5%3.2%0.4%1.8%
Waterpark/Theme/ Amusement Park2.1%0.8%1.3%1.7%2.1%
Ice Rink1.2%1.5%0.0%0.4%1.0%
Stadium/Arena/Track0.9%0.3%0.3%0.8%0.5%
Other0.3%1.1%0.8%0.0%1.5%

Other regional differences occurred as well, with respondents from military installations more likely to be located in the West, golf and country club respondents more likely to be from the South Central region, and resort and resort hotel respondents more likely to be located in the South Atlantic states. Not surprisingly, ice rinks were most likely to be found in the Northeast and Midwest. (See Figure 26.)

Respondents from the South Atlantic states were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2006 to 2007, with nearly half (49.8 percent) indicating such a change, and 35.2 percent saying they had seen increases of 10 percent or greater. They were also the most likely to be expecting increases through 2009, with 55 percent projecting that they would see growth in the number of people using their facilities between 2008 and 2009, and 37.2 percent predicting increases of 10 percent or more.

They were followed, at least from 2006 to 2007, by respondents from the West, 45.6 percent of whom said they had seen growth in the number of people using their facilities, though another 7.8 percent of respondents in this region said they had seen a drop in participation numbers. Respondents from the West were much less likely to be expecting increases by 2009, when just under 40 percent said they were expecting to see an increase and 2.2 percent were expecting a decrease.

Respondents in the South Central region were the most likely to report a decrease in the number of people using their facility from 2006 to 2007, with 7.9 percent saying they had seen decreases. That said, another 41.2 percent said their participation numbers had grown in this time period, and they were optimistic about future growth as well, with 45.1 percent projecting a jump in the number of participants from 2008 to 2009.

In line with Census trends mentioned previously, respondents from the Midwest and West were less likely to report increases in the number of people using their facilities. In the Midwest, 40.9 percent of respondents said they had seen an increase from 2006 to 2007, and 7.7 percent said the numbers had gone down, with 4.1 percent having seen a drop of 10 percent or more. Just 36.7 percent of respondents in the Northeast said their participation numbers had gone up from 2006 to 2007, while 5.4 percent said their numbers had gone down. Respondents from these two regions were also more likely to project their numbers to hold steady through 2009, with 63 percent of those from the Northeast and 58.9 percent of those from the Midwest anticipating that the number of people using their facilities would not change from 2008 to 2009. Just 40.3 percent of Midwestern respondents and 35.6 percent of Northeastern respondents expect an increase in that time period.

Respondents in the West were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2006 to 2007. Nearly 43 percent from this region said their revenues had gone up in that time period, with 20.2 percent reporting increases of 10 percent or more. Another 10.1 percent said their revenues had dropped in that time period, with 6.3 percent reporting decreases of 10 percent or more.

Respondents from the South Central states were the least likely to report increases in revenues from 2006 to 2007: Just over 30 percent said their revenues had gone up in that time period, and two-thirds (66.2 percent) said their revenues had remained unchanged. Respondents in this region were also the least likely to project increases in revenue in the next few years, with just 37.8 percent anticipating a jump in their revenues from 2008 to 2009.

Respondents in the South Atlantic states were the most optimistic about future revenue growth, with just under half (49.8 percent) expecting increasing revenues from 2008 to 2009. At the same time, respondents in this region are projecting the slowest growth in their operating expenditures, estimating a rise of just 11 percent from $1,504,300 in fiscal 2007 to $1,669,800. This compares with an overall change of 12.1 percent across the United States. However, the South Atlantic states did have the highest operating expenditures of all the regions for fiscal 2007, and are expected to have the highest expenditures in 2009 as well.

The Northeast and Midwest were also projecting lower-than-average increases in their operating expenditures from 2008 to 2009, at 11.5 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. The Northeast had the lowest operating cost at just $1,163,200 in fiscal 2007.

The fastest rates of growth in operating expenditures are projected in the West and South Central states. Average operating expenditures in the South Central states are projected to grow 13.2 percent between 2007 and 2009, while in the West, those costs will grow by 13.3 percent. (See Figure 27.)


Figure 27: General Average Operating Expenditures, 2007-2009, by Region
FISCAL 2007FISCAL 2008FISCAL 2009PERCENT CHANGE,
2007-2009
All Types$1,386,800$1,459,300$1,554,700+12.1%
Northeast$1,163,200$1,238,100$1,296,400+11.5%
Midwest$1,398,600$1,447,200$1,556,600+11.3%
South Atlantic$1,504,300$1,554,900$1,669,800+11.0%
South Central$1,357,200$1,422,000$1,536,200+13.2%
West$1,462,200$1,583,400$1,657,000+13.3%

In all regions, respondents reported operating expenditures for fiscal 2007 were greater than the projected expenditures reported in last year's survey. The largest disparity was seen among respondents in the Midwest, who reported actual operating expenditures 19.2 percent higher than their projections from last year. The smallest difference was seen in the Northeast, where respondents reported operating expenditures just 3.5 percent higher than the numbers projected in last year's survey. In all cases, respondents to this year's survey reported that their operating expenditures for fiscal 2007 were actually higher than the numbers projected for fiscal 2008 last year. For example, while last year's respondents from the South Atlantic states projected spending $1.4 million in 2008, this year's respondents actually spent $1.5 million in 2007.

Interestingly, there is wide disparity in the types and numbers of employees facilities in various regions are planning to hire. For example, while across the country, respondents of all types expect to grow the number of full-time workers by 10.9 percent, respondents in the South Central states projected a decrease of 4.3 percent, and respondents in the West said their number of full-time workers would decrease by a little more than a third. At the same time, respondents from the South Atlantic region were expecting a much sharper rise in the number of full-time workers, with an increase of nearly 49 percent within the next three years. And this is despite the fact that respondents in the South Atlantic region already employ the largest number of full-time workers. There was much less disparity between national and regional averages for part-time employees and volunteers. However, growth in the number of seasonal workers, projected at 62.9 percent nationally, will largely be driven by growth in the Northeast, where respondents projected a 243.3 percent rise in the number of seasonal workers they employ. In the West, on the other hand, respondents expect their seasonal workforce to grow by just 6.7 percent over the next three years.

Blueprints for Growth

When it comes to building new facilities, or adding to or renovating existing facilities, respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to have plans of all kinds. Just 22.6 percent of respondents in this region said they had no plans to build or renovate currently.

Respondents in the South Central region were the second most likely to have plans for new facilities, with 41 percent of respondents in this region reporting that they had plans to build something new. Respondents in the Northeast were the least likely to be planning new facilities, though more than a quarter (27.1 percent) indicated that they do have plans in place.

Respondents in the Northeast were the second most likely to be planning renovations to their existing facilities, with more than half (52.9 percent) reporting that they had renovation plans. Respondents in the South Central region were least likely to be planning renovations.

The West was the least likely to be reporting construction and renovation plans of any kind, though nearly 70 percent in this region do plan to add new facilities, add to their existing facilities or renovate. (See Figure 28.)


Figure 28: Facility Plans, by Region
BUILD NEWRENOVATE EXISTINGADD TO EXISTINGNO PLANS
Northeast27.1%52.9%29.8%27.7%
Midwest28.8%48.6%31.9%29.1%
South Atlantic42.7%54.9%36.1%22.6%
South Central41.0%38.9%32.3%27.5%
West32.7%45.8%30.4%31.2%

The highest spending on facilities is expected in the South Central states, where respondents projected an average $5,464,600 being spent on new facilities and additions and renovations over the next few years. This could reflect the higher concentration of respondents from colleges and universities in this region, as colleges and universities are planning to spend more on facilities than other types of organizations. (See Figure 15 in 2008 Report on the State of the Managed Recreation Industry.) Respondents in the Northeast were planning the smallest amount for new and renovated facilities, at just $3,589,300 on average. (See Figure 29.)

Compared to respondents from the South Central region last year, respondents this year were planning to spend 41.3 percent more on their new and renovated facilities. More modest increases were seen among respondents from the West, whose planned spending on new facilities and renovation grew by 7.8 percent, and those in the South Atlantic region, whose planned spending grew by just 5.2 percent.

Many of the amenities found in facilities vary based on the region in which the facility is located. For example, respondents from the Northeast and Midwest, were far more likely to offer amenities for winter recreation, such as ski trails, than respondents in the South Central region, where just 0.4 percent of respondents offered such an amenity.

The Northeast was also the most likely region to include synthetic turf fields for sports like football, soccer and baseball. In this region, 12.8 percent of respondents said they included synthetic turf fields in their facility, well ahead of the Midwest, where only 6.2 percent indicated that their facilities included synthetic turf. Respondents in the Northeast were also the most likely to be planning to add more synthetic turf fields. In fact, 12.8 percent indicated that they were planning such an addition over the next three years, followed closely by the West, where 12.6 percent of respondents indicated they were planning such an addition. In the Northeast, it is possible that such growth in the use of synthetic fields is driven by the higher population density, which could possibly indicate the need to program more events on the available athletic fields. In the West, we could speculate that water shortages and pesticide bans could be driving such increases as well.

Interestingly, disc golf seemed most popular in the Midwest, where 16.7 percent of respondents indicated their facilities included such an amenity. The Northeast was the least likely to include disc golf. Respondents from the Midwest were also more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add disc golf courses. Nearly 10 percent indicated they had such plans within the next three years.

The Midwestern facilities were also more likely to include ice rinks. Some 16.5 percent of respondents in this region indicated their facilities include ice rinks, compared to just 1.6 percent in the South Atlantic—again, a difference that makes sense when you look at a comparison of sun belt versus snow belt activities.

Another difference that might be explained by a longer winter is the fact that the Midwest was more likely than other regions to offer indoor running tracks. More than a quarter (26.3 percent) of Midwestern respondents indicated that their facilities included such an amenity. This makes indoor track running and walking far more prevalent in the Midwest than in the South Atlantic, where only 9.1 percent offer indoor running, and the West, where just 11.3 percent offer this amenity.

Indoor aquatics, splash play elements and waterparks were also most prevalent among Midwestern respondents.

Challenge courses were most popular among respondents in the South Atlantic region, where 14.7 percent indicated their facilities already include such an amenity, and another 10.1 percent are planning to add it. Trails and open spaces like gardens are also more likely to be found here (45.9 percent) than, say, in the neighboring South Central region, where just over a third include such an amenity. The same goes for waterfronts and marinas, another difference that can be easily explained by geography, the South Atlantic states including so much oceanfront property.

When it comes to planned amenities, respondents from the South Atlantic states were most likely to be planning to add playgrounds (17.3 percent of respondents in the region had such plans), dog parks (14.1 percent), skateparks (12 percent) and natural turf sports fields (10.9 percent).

Once again reflecting geographical differences, the hot and sunny South Central region was the most likely to include outdoor aquatic facilities. Nearly 40 percent of respondents in the region reported their facilities included such an amenity. Aquatics is obviously big in the South Central region, as this area is more likely than others to be planning to add both outdoor aquatics (7.1 percent of respondents here indicated they have such plans) and indoor aquatic facilities (10 percent), over the next three years.

Skateparks were by far most prevalent in the West, where 28.5 percent of respondents indicated they included such an amenity. Again, this makes sense when you consider that modern skateboarding really got its start in California.

Climbing walls were also most commonly found among respondents reporting from the West. Some 21.3 percent indicated their facilities included climbing walls. They were also the most likely to be planning to add climbing walls.

The West was also the most likely to include dog parks (19.5 percent of respondents in the West indicated they included this amenity), as well as campgrounds (17.9 percent), and it is the region where the most splash play areas are planned for the next three years.



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