A Look at Trends in Community Recreation & Sports Centers


his year, community recreation and sport centers made up 8.1 percent of the Industry Report survey respondents, a substantial number. But though these facilities all call themselves the same thing, they are not uniform.

While more than half (56.4 percent) of community center respondents indicated that they were public organizations, nearly one-quarter (22.7 percent) are private nonprofits, and 19.9 percent are private, for-profit organizations.

A substantial majority (84.9 percent) of community center respondents said they manage three or fewer facilities, with well over half (59.2 percent) managing just a single facility.

The largest number of community center respondents were from the Midwest: Nearly one-third (30.6 percent) were from this region. More than one-quarter (26.1 percent) were from the West, with 16.1 percent coming from the Northeast, 15.5 percent from the South Atlantic, and just 10 percent from the South Central states.

These respondents were most likely to work in suburban areas. Slightly less than half (44.6 percent) said they came from suburban areas. Another 28.8 percent worked in urban centers, and 26 percent worked in rural areas.

These respondents were slightly less likely than others to form partnerships, with 13.9 percent reporting they do not. That said, the majority do collaborate with other organizations. The top partners were local schools (62.2 percent of community center respondents said they work with local schools). Around half said they partner with local government (51.1 percent) or nonprofit organizations (50 percent). Slightly fewer partner with corporate or local businesses (40 percent), and colleges and universities (33.3 percent).

Better Than Average Budgets

Respondents from community centers seemed to perform slightly better in terms of budgets and usage than other facility types. They were slightly more likely than other respondents to report an increase to revenues in 2009 over 2008. Nearly four out of 10 (39.3 percent) community center respondents said their revenues had increased in 2009, versus 37.2 percent of all respondents. (See Figure 58.) They also were less likely than others to report decreasing revenues in all years covered by the study. While more than one-quarter (25.4 percent) said their revenues had decreased in 2009, that number falls in 2010 to 19.1 percent. And in 2011, only 11.3 percent are expecting to see a drop in revenues. Nearly half (47.8 percent) are expecting to see an increase in 2011.

Likewise, these respondents were more likely than the general survey population to be expecting to see the number of people using their facilities grow over the next several years. More than half (53.2 percent) saw that number grow in 2009, while 52 percent expect growth in 2010. In 2011, nearly six in 10 (59.7 percent) are expecting to see the number of people using their facilities increase. (See Figure 59.)

Community centers tended to operate leaner than the across-the-board average. They are among those facilities with the lowest operating budgets, as well as the smallest number of staff members.

They also are among the few who expect their operating budgets to grow in fiscal 2010. In fiscal 2009, community center respondents reported an average operating budget that was 40.3 percent lower than the general survey population, at $1,160,000. They are expecting an increase of 4.8 percent in 2010, to $1,216,000. This compares with a 4.5 percent drop expected by the general survey population. In 2011, they again project an increase, with average operating budgets rising 8.6 percent.

The majority (93.8 percent) of community center respondents said they had taken measures to reduce their expenditures. The top action taken was improving energy efficiency, undertaken by nearly two-thirds (65.7 percent) of these respondents. More than half (54.5 percent) said they had reduced staff. Other measures taken included increasing fees (44.4 percent), putting construction on hold (37.6 percent), cutting hours of operation (28.1 percent), and cutting programs and health services (27.5 percent). Other than health clubs, they were the least likely to have closed facilities, though 6.2 percent of community center respondents said they had.

On average, community center respondents employ 90.4 workers. The majority (70.8 percent) are planning to maintain their current staff levels in 2010. While 12.4 percent are planning to cut staff, more (16.9 percent) are planning to hire this year, adding an average of 28.8 workers: 12.2 volunteers, 9.5 part-time employees, 3.5 seasonal employees and 3.3 full-time workers.

Facility Plans

More than half (57.6 percent) of community center respondents said they had plans for construction in the next three years. This construction is dominated by plans for renovations. Some 37.3 percent of community center respondents said they had plans to renovate existing facilities. More than one-quarter (26 percent) were planning additions, and 17.5 percent were planning to build new facilities. (See Figure 60.) On average, they are planning to spend $2,815,000 on these plans—36.9 percent less than the average for all facility types.

The most common features currently included in community center respondents' facilities were:

  1. Classrooms and meeting rooms (included by 66.7 percent)
  2. Fitness centers (63.1 percent)
  3. Bleachers and seating (61.9 percent)
  4. Locker rooms (61.3 percent)
  5. Exercise studio rooms (60.7 percent)
  6. Concession areas (58.9 percent)
  7. Playgrounds (58.3 percent)
  8. Indoor sports courts (56.5 percent)
  9. Outdoor sports courts (45.8 percent)
  10. Open spaces, including gardens and natural areas (44.6 percent)

More than four in 10 (40.3 percent) community center respondents said they had plans to add more features to their facilities over the next three years. The most popular additions for these respondents were:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 26 percent of those who will add more features)
  2. Synthetic turf sports fields (23.3 percent)
  3. Park structures, such as shelters and restroom buildings (21.9 percent)
  4. Fitness centers (20.5 percent)
  5. Locker rooms (20.5 percent)
  6. Concession areas (19.2 percent)
  7. Playgrounds (17.8 percent)
  8. Exercise studio rooms (16.4 percent)
  9. Bleachers and seating (15.1 percent)
  10. Trails (13.7 percent)

The top concern among respondents from community centers was marketing and increasing participation at their facilities. Central to that mission is programming that will keep patrons coming back for more. The top programs currently offered by community center respondents' facilities fell fairly close to the average for all facilities, with slightly more than average offering mind-body/balance and active older adult programs.

The top 10 programs included in these facilities were: holiday events and special events; fitness programs; mind-body/balance programs; day camps and summer camps; youth sports teams; educational programs; active older adult programs; sports tournaments and races; swimming programs; and adult sports teams.

While their current program lineup is very similar to the across-the-board numbers, the programs community center respondents are planning to add over the next three years differed from the norm. For example, while more than one-third (36.4 percent) of community center respondents with plans to add programs are planning to add nutrition and diet counseling to their lineup, only 18.3 percent of all respondents with plans to add programs will be adding nutrition and diet counseling.

The top 10 programs community centers were planning to add include:

  1. Nutrition and diet counseling
  2. Teen programs
  3. Mind-body balance programs
  4. Fitness programs
  5. Educational programs
  6. Individual sports activities like running clubs or swim clubs
  7. Active older adult programs
  8. Sport training, such as golf instruction or tennis lessons
  9. Day camps and summer camps
  10. Sports tournaments and races

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