A Look at Regional Trends
n our past two reports, we have attempted to compare how U.S. Census Bureau population projections compare with the data returned in our Industry Report survey, particularly in light of regions of the country that are expected to see accelerated population growth, led by states like Arizona, Texas, Florida and Nevada. This year, we continue our tradition of breaking information down regionally, but must also consider how the economic downturn is impacting various U.S. regions.
While no region of the country—or the world, for that matter—has been completely untouched by the economic downturn, there is no doubt that the recession has had a far greater impact in some areas than others. States whose economies have been fueled largely by those industries that have been more strongly impacted—such as auto manufacturing in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana; housing and construction in Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada; and financial shakedowns in New York and other areas in New England and along the East Coast—may be feeling more pain than others. At the same time, the middle of the country—from Texas northward through the Great Plains—has not been hit quite so hard. But does that play out in terms of how recreation, sports and fitness facilities in those regions are impacted?
Once again, our Industry Report survey yielded the highest number of results from the Midwest. Otherwise, the numbers resemble the U.S. Census Bureau population distribution from 2000, and with the Bureau's projected numbers for 2010.
While the census found 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in the Northeast in 2000, the agency projected this region's proportion of the population to shrink to just 18.1 percent by 2010. Our respondents reflected this, with 18.6 percent of the results coming from the Northeast.
The Census Bureau likewise shows Midwestern populations shrinking from its census in 2000 (22.9 percent) to a projected 21.8 percent of the U.S. population by 2010. This is the region where our respondents really bucked the population trends, and 28.8 percent of respondents were from the Midwest.
While the Census shows the proportion of the U.S. population in the South Atlantic states growing from 18.4 percent in 2000 to a projected 19.4 percent by 2010, our survey respondents were less likely to hail from this region. Just 17.8 percent this year reported they were from the South Atlantic states, down from 19 percent last year.
The census also projected a slight increase in the population of the South Central states from 17.2 percent in 2000 to a projected 17.4 percent in 2010. This year, we saw representation in that region jump from last year's 12.1 percent to 13.4 percent.
Likewise, the census foresaw growth in the West from 22.5 percent of the U.S. population in 2000 to 23.4 percent in 2010. We showed growth in participation in this region from last year's 19.8 percent to 20.3 percent this year. (See Figure 25.)
Those from parks and recreation agencies were the most common respondents in our survey, with this group being most heavily weighted in the response from the West, where 45.1 percent were from park agencies. Parks and recreation agencies saw the least representation among respondents from the South Central states, where just over a third (33.7 percent) were from this type of organization.
On the other hand, South Central states saw the highest representation of colleges and universities. In this region, more than a fifth (20.7 percent) of responses came from colleges and universities, compared to just 7.1 percent of respondents in the West.
Respondents from schools and school districts were most likely to be found in the Midwest, where 11.1 percent of responses came from these facilities. They saw the lowest representation in the South Atlantic states, where just 4.5 percent were from schools.
Health club representation was heaviest in the West, where 4.7 percent of respondents were from health clubs, compared to just 2.9 percent of Northeastern respondents.
Finally, YMCAs predominated in the Northeast, where 7.8 percent of respondents represented these nonprofits, followed closely by the Midwest with 7.1 percent. Lowest participation for YMCAs was in the South Atlantic, where just 2 percent of respondents represented this type of facility. (See Figure 26.)
Other differences in facility type representation by region could be found in the South Atlantic, which were more likely than other regions to include respondents from campgrounds (10.3 percent of those in this region), golf or country clubs (4.2 percent) and resort or resort hotels (4.5 percent), while this region saw the lowest representation from waterparks (1.1 percent).
Likewise, respondents from the Midwest were more likely than those in other regions to represent ice rinks (1.6 percent of Midwestern respondents, compared to less than 1 percent for all other regions). Those in the South Central region were more likely than others to represent community or private recreation centers (8.9 percent of respondents in this region), as well as corporate recreation or sports centers (1.1 percent). And those in the West were more likely than other regions to represent military installations (3.9 percent) and waterparks, amusement parks or theme parks (3 percent).
While the U.S. Census projects the South Central region to fall right in the middle in terms of projected growth between 2000 and 2020, with 19.4 percent of the total growth in U.S. population occurring there from 2000 and 2010 and 19.9 percent from 2010 to 2020, respondents from this region were the most likely to be expecting to see more users at their facilities. While 58.7 percent of respondents in this region said usage had grown from 2007 to 2008, 60.9 percent project increases in 2009 over 2008, and 66.7 percent project increases in 2010 over 2009. Notably, this is the only region that saw a growing number of respondents projecting increasing usage in 2009.
Second in line for growth projected by the U.S. Census, and for increasing usage projected by our respondents, was the South Atlantic region. From 2000 to 2010, the census projects 29.2 percent of population growth to take place in this region, while from 2010 to 2020 it will weigh even heavier, with 32.2 percent of growth occurring here. Respondents in this region were second most likely to see increasing usage in 2008, with 58 percent reporting an increase. Likewise, 54.4 percent expect an increase in 2009, and 58.9 percent expect an increase in 2010.
While the West dominates projected growth in U.S. population by the Census Bureau, our respondents from this region were more moderate in their expectations of increasing usage at their facilities. The census projects 32.6 percent of U.S. population growth to take place in this region from 2000 to 2010, and 35.2 percent from 2010 to 2020. While respondents in this region were the third most likely to report an increase in usage from 2007 to 2008 (and the least likely to report a decrease in that year), they are the least likely to expect an increase in 2009, and the most likely to expect a drop this year. Several of the states in this region have been particularly hard-hit by the economic downturn, with the housing market collapse particularly impacting Arizona and Nevada. Meanwhile, the state of California has been facing a budget crisis for several years now, and the economic downturn is only magnifying its impact on budgets for governmental entities across the state, including state-run universities.
The Midwest and Northeast are projected by the Census Bureau to see much slower rates of population increase, and respondents for these regions reflect this in being the most likely to expect decreasing usage for their facilities. Those in the Midwest were the most likely to report seeing a drop in usage in 2008, with 13.2 percent of respondents in this region reporting a decrease that year. Still, more than half reported an increase for the year. By 2010, it is those in the Northeast who are most likely to expect decreasing usage, though more than half still expect to see more users at their facilities. (See Figure 27.)
Despite the down economy, respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic regions were more likely than the average across the board to see their revenues increase from 2007 to 2008. In the Northeast, 48 percent saw their
revenues increase, while in the South Atlantic states, 47.4 percent saw revenues increase in that time period, compared to 45.1 percent of all respondents.
But looking forward to 2009 and 2010, it is the South Central region that is most likely to project increasing revenues. This ties in with the numbers reported above, which show that this region is the most likely to project increasing usage at its facilities. From 2008 to 2009, 42.6 percent of respondents in this region anticipate increasing revenues (compared to 38.1 percent across the nation), and from 2009 to 2010, 49.2 percent project an increase (compared to 41 percent nationally). Likewise, in 2010, those in this region are the least likely to expect to see their revenues decline. Just 6.7 percent project a decrease next year.
While the Midwest was least likely to report increasing revenues from 2007 to 2008, they recover quickly in 2009 and 2010, with 38.5 percent expecting an increase in 2009 and 41 percent expecting an increase in 2010. The Northeast reported similar expectations, with 38.2 percent and 41 percent projecting increasing revenues for 2009 and 2010, respectively.
The Midwest was most likely to report a decrease in revenues from 2007 to 2008, with 16.2 percent of respondents in that region indicating they had seen a drop. From 2008 to 2009, it is those in the West who are most likely to expect decreasing revenues, with a full quarter of respondents in this region expecting a decrease in that time period. From 2009 to 2010, it is the South Atlantic states that are most likely to expect decreasing revenues, with 22.8 percent of respondents in that region anticipating a drop.
Despite the greater number of respondents expecting their revenues to fall compared to last year's survey, across the board, respondents reported increasing their operating expenditures from 2007 to 2010 by a minimum of 7.5 percent, though all predict a drop in their expenditures from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2009. Interestingly, the top three biggest increases to operating expenditures are also the three regions that reported the highest overall operating expenditures, and also reported the top three biggest decreases from 2008 to 2009.
Number one in terms of operating expenses is the Western region. Respondents in this region reported the highest operating expenditures for 2008 to 2010, and expect to increase their expenditures by the greatest amount between 2007 and 2010, by 38.1 percent to $2,020,000. This is after seeing the biggest drop in 2009, by 15.2 percent from the number reported for 2008.
Second is the South Atlantic region, which predicts an overall increase of 27.6 percent to operating expenditures from 2007 to 2010, with a drop of 14.6 percent in 2009 from 2008's reported average operating budget of $2,019,000.
The Midwest is third in line for increases, with respondents in this region anticipating a 17.1 percent rise from 2007 to 2010, and reporting a 14.6 percent drop in 2009 from 2008's average operating expenditure of $1,849,000.
The Northeast, which reports the smallest operating expenditures of any region, still reports a gain of 15.5 percent between 2007 and 2010, after seeing a 10.5 percent decrease in 2009 from the 2008 operating budget.
Finally, the South Central region anticipates the smallest increase from 2007 to 2010, of 7.5 percent, after seeing a 12.7 percent decrease in operating expenditures between 2008 and 2009. (See Figure 28.)
While fewer respondents overall indicated that they have building plans over the next few years in this year's survey, nearly two-thirds still indicated they have plans to build new facilities or make additions or renovations to their existing facilities. They are led by respondents in the South Central, South Atlantic and Northeast regions, whose respondents were more likely than the national average to be planning to build. While 63.3 percent of all respondents indicated they had such plans, 67.9 percent of those in the South Central region, 67.8 percent of those in the South Atlantic states, and 65.8 percent of those in the Northeast indicated they had plans to build.
Those in the South Atlantic states were most likely to be planning to build all-new facilities or make renovations. In this region, 38.8 percent are planning new facilities, and 46.4 percent plan renovations. Those in the South Central region were most likely to be planning additions.
Least likely to be planning to build new facilities were those in the Midwest, where less than a quarter (23.2 percent) plan new facilities. That said, nearly 40 percent in this region have plans to renovate, and while it is the region where respondents were least likely to have building plans in place, still nearly six in 10 respondents in the region have some sort of building plan in place. (See Figure 29.)
Respondents from the West had the highest dollar amounts budgeted for their construction plans, at $6,070,000, 25.5 percent higher than the national average of $4,835,000, and 20.9 percent more than last year's respondents in this region were planning to spend. They are followed by those in the South Atlantic states, who plan to spend 22.7 percent more than the national average, at $5,933,000, a 27.8 percent increase over last year's respondents for this region.
The Midwestern respondents, in addition to being the least likely to have plans in place, also plan to spend the smallest amount on the plans they do have, 23.4 percent less than the national average, at $3,703,000. That said, while they plan to spend less than last year's respondents from this region, the decrease is a relatively modest 4 percent.
More in line with the national average are those in the Northeast, who plan to spend 8.5 percent less at $4,422,000 (a 23.2 percent jump from last year) and those in the South Central region, who plan to spend $4,791,000, 9.1 percent less than the national average, and 12.3 percent less than respondents in this region last year were planning to spend. (See Figure 30.)
In some regions, specific types of amenities were found to be more prevalent than others. In some cases, this is driven by obvious differences in climate and geography.
In areas where water shortages are more prevalent and space for additional sports fields is limited, for example, one might expect to see a greater number of synthetic turf fields. This bears out in our results, wherein 17.1 percent of our Northeastern respondents, whose space is more likely to be limited, and 10.5 percent of our Western respondents, who are more likely to need to conserve water, currently include synthetic turf fields. What's more, these regions lead in terms of adding more synthetic turf over the next several years: 11.2 percent of those in the Northeast and 10.8 percent of those in the West indicated they have plans to do so, compared to 4.4 percent of those in the South Central states and 5.4 percent of Midwestern respondents.
Another amenity driven by climate is aquatic facilities—and more specifically, whether those facilities are indoors or out. Indeed, indoor aquatic facilities are most prevalent among Midwestern respondents, where 29.5 percent indicated they include indoor aquatics, but it is the South Central respondents who are most likely to be planning to add indoor aquatics. Outdoor aquatics are most prevalent among respondents from the West (41.4 percent) and South Atlantic states (40.8 percent), while just 27.5 percent of those in the Northeast indicated they feature outdoor aquatics. Likewise, outdoor aquatics are most likely to be planned by those in the West, where 4.4 percent plan such facilities, and least likely in the Northeast, with 1.3 percent of respondents having such plans.
An up-and-coming amenity that has seen a lot of growth in recent years, splash play areas are most likely to be found in the facilities of those in the South Central region, where 17.8 percent indicate they include them. They're closely followed by those in the West, 16.7 percent of whom indicated they have splash play areas. The Northeast is least likely to feature splash play, with 9.9 percent. The West and South Central regions also lead the way in terms of adding splash play areas.
Waterparks predominate in the Midwest, where 12.8 percent currently include them, and in the South Central region, where 10.7 percent include them. The West seems to intend to catch up, as 13.5 percent of respondents in that region indicate they plan to add waterparks in the next three years, followed by the South Central region.
Other features also tended to predominate in specific regions.
Fitness centers seem to be most popular among South Central respondents, where 54.1 percent indicated they currently include such features in their facilities. In addition, more than 8 percent of respondents in this region plan to add fitness centers in the next three years. They are surpassed in those plans by respondents from the South Atlantic states, 10.1 percent of whom plan to add fitness centers. Respondents from the Northeast were least likely to currently include fitness centers—38.8 percent currently do so.
While skateparks are currently included in a quarter of Western region respondents' facilities, it is respondents from the Northeast who were most likely to be planning to add skateparks. Climbing walls also can be found more in the West and Northeast, where more than 17 percent of respondents indicated their facilities include them.
Disc golf is most predominant in the South Central states, where 17 percent of respondents include it, compared to the Northeast, where only 5.6 percent include disc golf. Future plans continue this pattern, with those in the South Central region planning more disc golf courses.
Dog parks are most common in the West, where 15.2 percent feature them, and the South Atlantic, where 13.4 percent include them. The West is also the region most likely to be planning more dog parks in the next three years.
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