A Look at Regional Trends
By Emily Tipping
Before getting into the individual types of entities, i.e., parks, colleges, health clubs, etc., covered by the survey, let's take some time to look into how the survey results break down according to region.
States are continuing to face extreme challenges in terms of their budgets, according to a March 2011 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
According to the report, state tax receipt saw the steepest decline on record as a result of the recession, with tax collections 11 percent below pre-recession levels. At the same time, state-funded services are still in high demand. "As a result," the report states, "even after making very deep spending cuts over the last several years, states continue to face large budget gaps." That said, the report indicates that trends may be pointing to stabilization of state revenues, predicting that it is possible for state finances to begin to recover, possibly after next year.
While we do not break down survey results according to state, there are differences in terms of how respondents from each region are performing. Some regions have seen sharper decreases to operating budgets than others, while the very type of organization supported from one region to the next seems to differ.
For the most part, the percentage of respondents in each region fell close to the division of the general population determined in the latest Census, which took place in 2010. (The notable exception is the higher response from the Midwest and the much lower response from the South Central region.)
The largest group of respondents (29.1 percent) hailed from the Midwest. This region was followed by the West, with 21.7 percent, the South Atlantic states, with 18.4 percent, the Northeast, with 17.2 percent, and the South Central region, which had 13.3 percent of the responses. (See Figure 28.)
It is interesting to note the way types of organizations—whether public, private nonprofit or private for-profit—break across different regions. In the southern states, including both the South Atlantic and South Central regions, respondents were more likely to report that they worked for public organizations, with 70.3 percent of South Central respondents and 68.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents indicating that this is the type of organization they work for. This compares with fairly low numbers in the Northeast, where just 55.3 percent of respondents were from public organizations.
At the same time, private nonprofits were more highly represented in the Northeast and Midwest. In the Northeast, 27.6 percent of respondents worked for private nonprofits, while in the Midwest, 24.8 percent were from this type of organization. This compares with just 14.1 percent in the South Atlantic states and 16.3 percent in the West.
In all regions, the response was weighted most heavily toward park and recreation organizations, though some regions were more highly represented by parks and recreation than others. For example, in the South Central states, 29.7 percent of respondents worked for parks and recreation agencies. This compares with the West, where 42.8 percent of respondents were with parks. (See Figure 29.)
Colleges and universities were more heavily represented in the South Central region than others, with 25.1 percent of the response in that region coming from colleges and universities. This region also was more heavily slanted toward schools and school districts, with 11.8 percent of the South Central respondents hailing from these types of organizations.
YMCAs were more highly represented by respondents in the Northeast and Midwest than other regions, with 9.4 percent of Northeast respondents and 8.9 percent of Midwest respondents indicating they worked for YMCAs. This compares with just 2.3 percent of the response from the South Central region.
Respondents in the Midwest and South Atlantic regions were the most likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2009 to 2010. (See Figure 30.)
The number for the South Atlantic states falls near the number projected by last year's respondents from this region. Last year, 52.8 percent of South Atlantic respondents projected that usage would grow from 2009 to 2010, and 53.2 percent of this year's respondents from that region indicated it had. In the Midwest, on the other hand, only 49.1 percent of respondents last year expected usage to increase, and this year, 53.2 percent reported that usage had risen. This is in contrast to the South Central region, where 55.2 percent of respondents last year expected an increase, and 49.4 percent reported such an increase in this year's survey.
For more regions, more than half of respondents are anticipating to see further growth in usage in 2011. The exception is the Northeast, where slightly less than half (49.7 percent) are projecting an increase.
Respondents from the South Central region were most likely to be anticipating an increase in both 2011 and 2012. Some 57.1 percent of respondents in this region expect to see increasing usage in 2011, and 58.4 percent expect an increase in 2012. They were followed by respondents from the West for 2011, when 54.7 percent expect an increase, and respondents from the South Atlantic in 2012, when 58.2 percent expect to see an increase.
At the same time that respondents in these regions are reporting increasing usage, they also have seen a drop in their average operating expenditures for fiscal 2010. The highest operating expenditures for fiscal 2010 were found among respondents in the West, with an average $1,608,000 budget. The lowest were found in the Midwest, with $1,347,000. (See Figure 31.)
The sharpest declines in operating expenditures for fiscal 2010 were found among respondents in the South Atlantic states, who reported an average drop of 33.2 percent from last year's projected number of $2,041,000 to this year's reported average, at $1,363,000. They were followed by respondents in the Midwest, who saw a 26.7 percent decrease. Those in the West had a decrease of 23 percent, while the South Central region had an 18.1 percent decrease. The most modest decrease was seen in the Northeast, at 3.5 percent from an average projected budget of $1,457,000 last year to a reported fiscal 2010 budget of $1,406,000 this year.
Most respondents are anticipating budgets to rise over the next two years, though levels in 2012 are still not expected to recover to the levels seen in fiscal 2009. The greatest increase for this time period is projected by respondents in the Midwest, who are expecting an increase of 6.6 percent from fiscal 2010. They are followed by those in the South Atlantic, who projected a 6.5 percent increase, the West at 4.1 percent, and the Northeast at 3 percent. The South Central states were projecting the smallest rise in operating expenditures at 2.3 percent, from $1,459,000 in fiscal 2010 to a projected $1,493,000 in fiscal 2012.
For the most part, regional respondents were more likely to indicate that they had no construction plans for the next three years in this year's industry report survey than in last year's survey. The one exception is in the West, where 45.1 percent of last year's respondents said they had no construction plans. This year that number fell to 41.1 percent. That said, respondents in the West are still the least likely to have plans to build new facilities or make additions or renovations to their existing facilities over the next several years. Respondents from the Northeast were the most likely to be planning construction of some kind. (See Figure 32.)
Respondents from the South were most likely to be planning new construction, with 26.8 percent of those in the South Atlantic and 26 percent in the South Central states indicating that they have plans for new construction over the next three years. Respondents from the South Central states were most likely to be planning additions. Nearly a third (33.1 percent) of respondents in this region reported that they are planning to make additions to their existing facilities. Respondents from the Northeast were most likely to be planning renovations. Nearly half (47.6 percent) of these respondents are planning renovations at their facilities over the next three years.
Respondents generally had more modest budgets for their construction plans compared with last year's respondents. The exception is those in the Northeast, who have budgeted 24.9 percent more for construction than last year's respondents, with an average budget of $3,697,000 compared with last year's average budget of $2,960,000. (See Figure 33.)
The largest decrease in budgets for construction plans from 2010 to 2011 was seen in the West, where the average amount planned for construction fell 20.9 percent from $5,104,000 last year to $4,035,000. The other regions experienced decreases of 14.7 percent (in the South Atlantic) to 15.7 percent (in the South Central region).
The average amount budgeted for construction by respondents in all regions is $3,942,000. Respondents in the South Atlantic and West regions are planning to spend more than this amount, while respondents in other regions are spending slightly less. In the South Atlantic, respondents are planning to spend 12.6 percent more than the across-the-board average, and in the West, respondents are planning to spend 2.4 percent more. Some of these higher spending amounts could be driven by higher prices for construction in certain areas. For example, in the mountainous areas of the West, construction costs are generally higher than elsewhere. They also could be driven by the type of construction planned. As noted previously, respondents in the South Atlantic region are more likely to be planning new construction than respondents from other regions.
For the most part, regional respondents reported that their facilities included the same top features as respondents across the board. Respondents in the Northeast, South Atlantic and West were slightly more likely to include trails at their facilities than other respondents, and respondents in the South Central region were slightly more likely than other respondents to include fitness centers.
Many of the main features included in respondents' facilities differed slightly according to region. Many predominant features seem to be a function of where the facility is located. For example, warmer climates seem to be home to more outdoor amenities. The South Atlantic, South Central and Western regions were more likely to have outdoor than indoor aquatic facilities. In the South Atlantic states, 37.6 percent of respondents had outdoor aquatic facilities, vs. 25.2 percent with indoor. In the South Central region, 36.5 percent had outdoor and 26.6 percent had indoor aquatics. And in the West, 37.5 percent had outdoor while 25.2 percent had indoor aquatics. In the Midwest, on the other hand, the trend reversed, and 30.3 percent had indoor aquatic facilities, while 26.3 percent had outdoor facilities.
Ice rinks provide another good example, being more heavily represented in areas where winters are more pronounced. In the Northeast, 17.6 percent of respondents have ice rinks, and 15.4 percent of Midwestern respondents have ice rinks. This compares with 8.2 percent in the West and just 2.2 percent in the South Atlantic and 0.8 percent in the South Central region. The same holds true for winter recreation areas for sports like skiing and snowboarding. In the Northeast, 12.1 percent include these features, and 10.1 percent include them in the Midwest. In the West, the number falls to 6.5 percent. In the South, just 0.8 percent of respondents have winter recreation facilities of some kind.
In some cases, the prevalence of specific types of features is highest in the region where the trend of adding those types of amenities first began to take hold. Here, skateparks, dog parks and disc gold serve as good examples.
Skateparks are far more common in the West than anywhere else. More than a quarter (27.3 percent) of Western respondents indicated that their facilities include skateparks. They are followed by the Midwest, with 18.2 percent. Respondents in the South Central states were least likely to include skateparks. Just 9.9 percent of these respondents have them.
Dog parks also are more common in the West, where 15.9 percent of respondents have them. They are followed by the South Atlantic states, where 15.4 percent of respondents have dog parks. In the South Central states, by comparison, just 7.6 percent of respondents reported that they include dog parks.
Disc golf, on the other hand, was most popular among respondents in the Midwest, where nearly a fifth (19.1 percent) of respondents said they had disc golf courses. They were followed by the South Central region and the West, where 16.3 percent of respondents had disc golf courses.
Interestingly, Midwestern respondents were also far more likely than others to report that their facilities include an indoor running track. More than a quarter (26.5 percent) of Midwestern respondents had one. They were followed by those in the South Central region, where 18.3 percent said they have indoor tracks.
Synthetic turf was most popular in the Northeast, perhaps due to the more heavily concentrated population of that region. Some 17.4 percent of respondents in the Northeast have synthetic turf. They were followed by the West (12.8 percent), Midwest (12.7 percent) and South Atlantic (12.1 percent). Just 7.2 percent of South Central respondents had synthetic turf.
Respondents from the Northeast were the most likely to indicate that they had plans to add additional amenities to their facilities over the next three years. Nearly half (47.1 percent) reported that they had such plans. The top five features they were planning to add included: playgrounds, splash play areas, synthetic turf fields, trails, and fitness centers. They were the most likely to be planning to add splash play areas, playgrounds, fitness centers and synthetic turf fields.
Some 41.7 percent of respondents in the West reported that they have plans to add features to their facilities. Their top five planned features include park structures such as shelters and restrooms, trails, splash play areas, playgrounds and concessions. These respondents were more likely than those in other regions to be planning to add trails, park structures and climbing walls.
Respondents in the South Atlantic region were most likely to be planning climbing walls. Around 41.2 percent of these respondents had plans to add features of any kind to their facility over the next three years. Their five most common planned additions include: splash play areas, bleachers and seating, playgrounds, climbing walls, and trails.
Some 40.3 percent of respondents in the South Central region had plans to add features to their facilities in the next three years. Their top five planned additions include: splash play areas, park structures such as shelters and restrooms, playgrounds, fitness centers and trails.
Respondents from the Midwest were the least likely to report that they were planning to add features to their facilities over the next three years, though four out of 10 (40 percent) respondents indicated that they do have such plans. Their top five planned additions include playgrounds, disc golf courses, trails, splash play areas and park structures. Respondents from this region were more likely than those from other regions to report that they had plans to add a disc golf course.
Most types of programming offered by respondents were offered by more respondents in the Northeast region than any other. This goes for all of the top 10 most commonly offered programs (holiday events and other special events, fitness, education, day camps and summer camps, mind-body/balance programs, youth sports teams, swimming, adult sports teams, sports tournaments and races, and arts and crafts), as well as sport training, teen programming, individual sports activities, trips, festivals and concerts, performing arts, daycare or preschool programs, and water sports.
Respondents from the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities offered programming for active older adults, as well as nutrition/diet counseling, environmental education programs, and therapeutic programs. Respondents in the West were more likely than those in other regions to include aquatic exercise programs, personal training and climbing programs. Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than those in other regions to provide special needs programming and camping.
Large discrepancies were found in the prevalence of certain programs, depending on the region respondents were reporting from. The largest differences were found for: arts and crafts programs (offered by 53.5 percent of respondents in the Northeast vs. 31.9 percent in the South Central region, a difference of 21.6 points); trips (provided by 45 percent in the Northeast vs. 26.2 percent in the South Central states, a difference of 18.8 points); holidays and special events (found among 61.8 percent of Northeastern respondents, but just 44.1 percent in the South Central region, a difference of 17.7 points); daycare or preschool programs (35 percent of those in the Northeast provide these programs vs. 18.6 percent in the South Central region, a difference of 16.4 points); and day camps and summer camps (60.3 percent in the Northeast vs. 44.1 percent in the West, a spread of 16.2 points).
In addition to being the most likely to indicate that they already offer programs at their facilities, respondents in the Northeast were also the most likely to report that they have plans to add more programs within the next three years. Some 36.2 percent indicated they have plans to add programs, with the most common including fitness, mind-body/balance programs like yoga and Pilates, educational programs, teen programming, and day camps or summer camps.
Some 35.7 percent of respondents in the South Atlantic region reported that they have plans to add more programs in the next three years. Their top choices included teen programming, fitness, environmental education, active older adult programming, and day camps or summer camps.
Just over three in 10 (30.4 percent) respondents in the South Central region are planning to add programs to their facilities in the next three years. Their most common choices for program additions include educational programs, adult sports teams, fitness, active older adult programs, and individual sports activities such as running clubs and swim clubs.
Some 30.2 percent of Midwestern respondents are planning to add programming at their facilities within the next three years. Their most commonly planned program additions include fitness, education, mind-body/balance, active older adult programs, and environmental education.
Finally, 29.6 percent of Western respondents are planning to add programs in the next three years. Their most popular planned programs include teen programming, educational programs, fitness, active older adult programs, and day camps/summer camps, environmental education and nutrition/diet counseling (tied).
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