Pleasant Surprises

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their mind to be."

—Abraham Lincoln


ell me if this sounds familiar: You've got something coming up that you're dreading—a family event where you might have to talk to that boring uncle, a big report that you know is going to be exhausting and take up every waking minute for a week, cutting a budget that's already been cut to the bone. So, instead of taking a lighter view, you make the worst of the possibilities. It will be horrible, you decide.

Why do you do this? Because then, when it turns out to be not quite so awful, you will be pleasantly surprised, instead of feeling even more disappointed when it's worse than your expectations.

I bring this up because, in this fourth year of putting together Recreation Management's State of the Industry Report, I've noticed an interesting trend. In the near term, respondents tend to be more negative, but looking two years out, they grow more positive. What this means is, the actual numbers reported by respondents on things like budgets, revenues, usage and so on, generally end up being more positive than the previous year's respondents expected them to be. This is certainly not always the case—you can simply page through this year's report, and you'll find exceptions to this rule—but I'm willing to bet that more often than not, respondents are more negative than they need to be for the near term.

This year's results certainly showed less of this trend, but there were still some more-positive-than-expected results. Take operating budgets as an example. Last year's respondents were expecting a drop of 13 percent to their operating budgets in fiscal 2009, respondents in 2010 reported that these budgets actually rose by around 5 percent.

What does this mean, as you turn the page and begin reading the results? It means, I hope, that things generally turn out better than we expect. And, when they do, we get to be pleasantly surprised.

There is no denying that things are tough this year. While stories of facilities beating the odds and performing beyond expectations are plentiful, many facility directors are worried. There is a growing concern that the public and political leaders need to be educated about the benefit of parks, recreation facilities, sports venues and fitness centers.

We all know the great benefits these facilities bring to the communities they serve. Let's do our best to trumpet the positive to our communities.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director


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