2012 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

A Look at What's Happening in Recreation, Sports and Fitness Facilities

By Emily Tipping

In the six years that Recreation Management has been putting together this detailed look at the State of the Industry, we've seen drastic economic changes, and the fallout that has drifted across facilities of all kinds, from private health clubs to nonprofit YMCAs, from municipal park agencies to public and private universities and beyond. Last year's report seemed to show more stabilization and hinted at the beginning of a turnaround, particularly in terms of budgets, revenues and membership. This year largely continues that trend.

Welcome to your annual State of the Industry Report, where we peek inside the industry to find out the larger trends driving facility management, programming and more at recreation, sports and fitness facilities across the country. To bring you this information, we surveyed more than 2,000 professionals working in the managed recreation, sports and fitness market. These professionals graciously took the time to answer more than 50 questions about their facilities now and over the next few years, as well as their own careers, thoughts and concerns and much more. In these pages, we report their responses to you, summarizing the current state of the industry, and beginning with the overall results. Market-specific results can be found in the following sections.


Who Are You?

As in past years, respondents represent decision-makers in their organizations. More than one-third—36.1 percent—have the job title, Director. The second largest number, 20.6 percent, represent Administration Management, including administrators, managers and superintendents. Some 16.7 percent are in operations facility management, including operations managers, facility managers, building managers and supervisors; and 10.1 percent are program or activity administrators, including activity or program directors, managers, coordinators, specialists, coaches and instructors. Just 7.6 percent gave their job title as chairman, CEO, president, vice president or owner. Another 0.6 percent are in services, such as planners, designers, architects or consultants; and 8.3 percent claimed "other" job titles.

There was very little difference between last year's results and this year's in terms of regional representation. The largest group (though this number has fallen slightly, from 29.1 percent in 2011) was from the Midwest. More than one-quarter (28.7 percent) of respondents hailed from the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. (See Figure 1.)

The second largest percentage also came from a region that saw a drop in participation this year, from 21.7 percent in 2011. Some 20.6 percent of respondents to the 2012 survey were from the West, compared with 21.7 percent in 2011. This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

These regions were again followed by the South Atlantic, which saw a slight increase from 18.4 percent of respondents in 2011 to 18.8 percent in 2012. This region includes the states of Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

Also showing a slight increase, the Northeast is home to 17.8 percent of this year's respondents (compared with 17.2 percent in 2011). It includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The South Central region claims 13.6 percent of 2012 respondents (compared with 13.3 percent in 2011). This includes Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Finally, showing virtually no change, just 0.5 percent of respondents said they were not from the United States.

This year's survey captured more responses from suburban and rural communities than last year, while fewer respondents reported from urban communities. Still claiming the largest portion of survey respondents, 41.2 percent said they worked in suburban communities. Another third (33.5 percent) were from rural communities. A quarter (25.3 percent) were from urban areas. (See Figure 2.)

More respondents indicated they worked for public organizations in 2012 than in 2011, while fewer hailed from private, for-profit organizations. Well over two-thirds—67.7 percent—said they worked for public organizations. About two out of 10 (20.4 percent) work for private nonprofits, and around one in 10 (11.1 percent) said they worked for private for-profit organizations. (See Figure 3.)

The dominance of public organizations is reflected in the type of facility respondents reported from. The largest group—37.8 percent—hailed from parks and recreation agencies and departments. (See Figure 4.) Facility types that saw a larger percentage of respondents in 2012 included colleges and universities (19.2 percent vs. 16.5 percent in 2011); schools and school districts (10.5 percent vs. 7.4 percent); golf facilities and country clubs (2.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent); and military installations (2 percent vs. 1.5 percent).

(For more information on trends in parks and recreation, click here. Trends in colleges and universities can be found here; and trends in schools and school districts can be found here.)

Conversely, there was a slight drop in participants from community and private recreation and sports centers (6.2 percent vs. 7.4 percent in 2012); campgrounds, RV parks, private camps and youth camps (5.7 percent vs. 7.7 percent); YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs (5 percent vs. 6.1 percent); resorts and resort hotels (1.7 percent vs. 2.5 percent); waterparks, theme parks and amusement parks (1.6 percent vs. 1.9 percent).

(Trends in YMCAs, YWCAs, JCCs and Boys & Girls Clubs can be found here.)

Other facility types showed virtually no change, with 3.6 percent of respondents coming from sports, health or fitness clubs (unchanged from 2011); and less than 1 percent each from ice rinks (0.6 percent vs. 0.5 percent in 2011); stadiums, arenas and tracks (0.4 percent vs. 0.3 percent); corporate recreation and sports centers (0.4 percent vs. 0.3 percent); and racquet or tennis clubs (0.3 percent vs. 0.4 percent).

(To read more about trends in health and fitness clubs, click here.)

Certain types of facilities were more likely to be found in urban, suburban and rural areas. Colleges, for example, were most likely to be in urban areas, with more than a third (36.4 percent) of college respondents. Parks, health clubs, YMCAs and community sports and recreation centers were most likely to be found in suburban areas. Some 44.3 percent of park respondents, 39.7 percent of health clubs, 44.6 percent of YMCAs and 54 percent of community recreation center respondents indicated they were located in a suburban area. Finally, schools and school districts, as well as campgrounds, private and youth camps and RV parks were most likely to be found in rural areas. More than half (50.9 percent) of school respondents and more than two-thirds (67.2 percent) of camp respondents said they were located in rural areas.

There was very little change in the average numbers of facilities managed by respondents this year. Well over half (58.8 percent) manage three or fewer facilities, with more than a third (35.6 percent) indicating that they manage just a single facility. Nearly one in five respondents (17.7 percent) manage 10 or more facilities. Another quarter (23.4 percent) manage between four and nine facilities. (See Figure 5.)

As in past surveys, respondents from parks and recreation organizations, as well as school and school district respondents, manage the largest number of facilities on average. (See Figure 6.) These numbers saw little change from last year, with parks and recreation respondents reporting that they manage 10.4 facilities on average (compared with 10.1 in 2011), and school/school district respondents indicating they manage 8.6 facilities on average (compared with 9.8 in 2011).

Health club respondents are managing a larger number of facilities on average than this same group reported last year. Health club respondents reported that they manage 4.1 facilities on average (compared with 2.8 in 2011).

Respondents from YMCAs, camps and community recreation and sports centers indicated that they are managing fewer facilities in 2012 when compared with 2011. YMCA respondents reported that they manage an average of 2.3 facilities, compared with 3.7 last year. Respondents from camps said they are managing 2.5 facilities on average, compared with 3 in 2011. And, community recreation and sports center respondents are managing an average of 2.7 facilities, compared with 3.1 last year.

There was virtually no change for respondents from colleges and universities, who report that they manage an average of 3.7 facilities, compared with 3.9 in 2011.

Respondents from urban communities manage the largest number of facilities, as one might expect, with respondents from rural communities managing the smallest number. On average, urban respondents manage 8.5 facilities, while suburban respondents manage 7.2 and rural respondents manage five. Nearly a quarter (23.9 percent) of urban respondents manage 10 or more facilities, compared with 19.3 percent of suburban respondents and 11.4 percent of rural respondents. Conversely, 63.6 percent of rural respondents reported that they manage three or fewer facilities, compared with 57.3 percent of suburban respondents and 55.1 percent of urban respondents.

A majority of respondents—86.1 percent—indicated that they form partnerships with other organizations. This is an increase from last year, when 85.1 percent said they form such partnerships. There has been little change in the most prominent partners found among our respondents. The most common—local schools—are partners to well over half (56.2 percent) of the survey respondents. Other common partners include local government (47.2 percent), nonprofit organizations (43.5 percent), colleges and universities (34.7 percent) and state government (33 percent). (See Figure 7.)

Despite the predominance of partnerships, most organization types saw a drop in the percentage of respondents that form partnerships with them. These include local schools, which fell from 58.4 percent last year to 56.2 percent this year; as well as local government (50.5 percent to 47.2 percent), nonprofit organizations (44.5 percent to 43.5 percent), state government (35 percent to 33 percent), corporate/local businesses (32.6 percent to 31.5 percent), federal government (21.1 percent to 20.7 percent), health care and medical facilities (20.1 percent to 19.5 percent), YMCAs and similar facilities (19.7 percent to 18.6 percent), military (13.8 percent to 12.7 percent) and private health clubs (5.1 percent to 5 percent).

Only colleges and universities saw an increase in the number of respondents that form partnerships with them. Some 34.7 percent of respondents in 2012 said they partner with colleges and universities, compared with 32.3 percent in 2011.

There were some changes this year for specific facility types, in terms of their tendency to form partnerships with outside organizations. Respondents from colleges and universities were slightly more likely to report that they partner with other organizations. In 2011, 78.3 percent of college respondents said they partnered, while in 2012, 83.6 percent indicated that they do so. Parks and recreation respondents also saw a slight increase, from 94.2 percent in 2011 to 94.6 percent in 2012. And YMCAs, always the facility most likely to form outside partnerships, also saw a slight increase, to 99 percent from 98.4 percent in 2011.

Facility types that saw a decrease in their tendency to form partnerships with other organizations included schools and school districts (down to 88 percent from 90.9 percent in 2011); health clubs (down to 73.6 percent from 80.3 percent in 2011); camps (down to 70.7 percent, from 75 percent in 2011); and community sports and recreation centers (down to 86.1 percent from 87 percent in 2011). Still, a substantial majority of respondents from all facility types do partner with other types of organizations. (See Figure 8.)

For the first time in 2012, the survey asked respondents to identify their primary audience for their main facility. The largest percentage of respondents—38.4 percent—indicated that they serve all ages. This was followed by adults age 19 to 64 (17 percent), college students (16.7 percent) and children age 4 to 12 (16.2 percent). Fewer respondents identified as their primary audience teens age 13 to 18 (9 percent) and seniors age 65 and older (2.5 percent). Just 0.2 percent of respondents said their primary audience is infants and toddlers younger than 4. (See Figure 9.)

Last year's Industry Report saw a slight easing in respondents' concerns about the economic downturn and its impact on their facilities. While facilities definitely still seem to be recovering, in terms of budgets and revenues, this year brought another increase in respondents reporting a more stable situation in terms of budgets and revenues.

Slightly fewer respondents in 2012 reported that their revenues increased in 2011 than the number who predicted such an increase in last year's survey. In 2011, 40.8 percent of respondents projected that their revenues would increase from 2010 to 2011. This year, just 37 percent of respondents reported that such an increase had taken place. This was also a drop from those who saw increasing revenue from 2009 to 2010. (See Figure 10.)


At the same time, a growing number of respondents are reporting that their revenues are expected to increase in the future, and a higher number of respondents are expecting their revenues to remain stable. The number of respondents projecting lower revenues over time has fallen from a high of 24.6 percent who saw dropping revenues from 2008 to 2009 to just 10.8 percent who project such a decrease in the year 2013.

Respondents from camps, YMCAs and health clubs were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2010 to 2011. More than half (55.3 percent) of camp respondents, 47.5 percent of YMCAs and 40.3 percent of health clubs reported that they had seen such increases. In that same time frame, respondents from schools and school districts, health clubs and parks organizations were the most likely to report that they had seen a decrease in revenues. More than a third (36.6 percent) of school respondents, 30.6 percent of health club respondents and 21.8 percent of park respondents reported such a decrease from 2010 to 2011.

Looking ahead, respondents from camps, YMCAs and health clubs also tended to be the most likely to expect further increases in revenue over the next two years. From 2011 to 2012, 60 percent of camps, 55.7 percent of YMCAs and 54.3 percent of health clubs are projecting an increase in revenues. From 2012 to 2013, YMCAs take the lead, with more than two-thirds (67.7 percent) of those respondents projecting a revenue increase. They are followed by camps (where 61.5 percent of respondent project an increase) and health clubs (58.5 percent).

On the other hand, respondents from schools and school districts are overwhelmingly the most likely to expect their revenues to fall over the next two years. Well over a third (38.6 percent) of school respondents said they expect revenues to drop in 2012, and more than a third (35 percent) also expect to see decreasing revenues in 2013. At the same time, the number of respondents from schools who are anticipating an increase in revenues falls from 14.5 percent projecting an increase in 2012 to 13.1 percent expecting an increase in 2013.

On the other hand, respondents overall are expecting their annual operating expenditures to rise by 14.3 percent from 2010 to 2013. In one year alone, respondents reported an increase of 8.8 percent in actual (not projected) operating expenditures, from $1,427,000 in 2010 to $1,552,000 in 2011. (See Figure 11.) Operating expenditures for fiscal 2011 were well above the projected number from last year's survey, of $1,449,000.

With the exception of camps, all facility types reported that their yearly operating expenditures increased from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2011. Camps saw a drop of 7.6 percent in this time. The largest increase was reported by respondents from community recreation and sports centers, who saw a 37.2 percent increase in their operating expenditures in this time period. More modest decreases were reported by YMCAs (16 percent), colleges and universities (14 percent), health clubs (7.5 percent) and parks (5.3 percent). Schools saw virtually no change to their operating expenditures from fiscal 2010 to 2011, reporting a very slight, 0.5 percent increase from $1,296,000 to $1,303,000. (See Figure 12.)


Likewise, most facility types are expecting to see their operating expenditures increase from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013, with only schools and school districts projecting a decrease in this time frame. While respondents from schools projected a drop of 5.1 percent in operating expenditures from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013, respondents from all other facility types expect increases. The most dramatic increases—of more than 10 percent—are expected by respondents from health clubs (12.7 percent) and YMCAs (10.1 percent). They are followed by respondents from colleges and universities, who project a 9.3 percent increase in operating budgets from 2011 to 2013, as well as respondents from camps (projecting a 7.5 percent increase), and community recreation centers and parks respondents, which both project an increase of 3.6 percent.

While operating expenditures are on the rise, fewer respondents are reporting that they are taking actions to reduce their expenses. While 90.3 percent of respondents in 2011 said they had taken some action to reduce expenditures, in 2012 that number falls to 89.2 percent.

The most common action taken is still efforts to improve energy efficiency. Some 57.4 percent of respondents said they had improved their facility's energy efficiency in order to reduce their operating costs. Other common actions included reducing staffing levels (46.6 percent of respondents had taken this action), increasing fees (43.2 percent), putting construction and renovation plans on hold (36.9 percent), or cutting programming or services (30.1 percent). More than a quarter (26.6 percent) of respondents said they had reduced their hours of operation, and 10.7 percent had shortened their seasons. Just 8.5 percent indicated that they had closed facilities in order to reduce operating expenditures. (See Figure 13.)

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to indicate that they had taken some action to reduce their operating expenditures. In fact, nearly all of these respondents—97 percent—reported that they had moved to reduce expenditures. Their most common methods included improving energy efficiency (undertaken by 63.4 percent of YMCAs); increasing fees (58.4 percent); and reducing staff (55.4 percent).

More than nine out of 10 (93 percent) parks respondents also reported that they had taken action to reduce operating expenditures. Their most common methods of doing so included improving energy efficiency (61.2 percent of parks respondents); increasing fees (52.3 percent); and reducing staff (51.9 percent).

Respondents from colleges and universities, and community recreation and sports centers were the least likely to have acted to reduce operating expenses, though a clear majority indicated they had done so. Some 81.5 percent of college respondents and 85.4 percent of community center respondents said they had acted to reduce operating expenditures.

While YMCAs were the most likely to have improved energy efficiency, reduced staffing levels or increased fees, parks and recreation organizations were more likely than other types of facilities to have put their construction or renovation plans on hold, cut programming or services, reduced hours, shortened seasons or closed facilities entirely.

Membership & Facility Usage

When it comes to the people using their facilities, a majority of respondents—58.6 percent—charge a fee for membership or usage. (See Figure 14.)

Those most likely to charge a fee for using their facility or becoming members included YMCAs, where 98 percent of respondents require a fee, and health clubs, where 91.8 percent said they require a fee. Those least likely to charge a fee include schools and school districts, where 24.1 percent require a fee for usage.

Only around a third (31.3 percent) of respondents said their usage fees had increased from 2010 to 2011, and similar numbers indicated that their fees would be increasing in 2012 (33.4 percent) and in 2013 (36.7 percent). The majority of respondents said their fees remained the same in 2011 (65.5 percent) and would continue to hold steady in 2012 (64.6 percent) and 2013 (62.7 percent). (See Figure 15.)

Respondents from YMCAs were the most likely to report that they had increased their fees from 2010 to 2011, followed by camps and campgrounds. Some 43.9 percent of YMCAs and 39.4 percent of camps respondents said they had increased fees in this time period. These respondents were also the most likely to be anticipating fee increases over the next two years, with 50 percent of camps and 45.9 percent of YMCAs projecting a fee increase in 2012; and 50.7 percent of camps and 45.7 percent of YMCAs projecting an increase in 2013.

On the other hand, respondents from health and fitness clubs were the most likely to report that they had decreased their membership fees from 2010 to 2011, and were also the most likely to predict further decreases in 2012. That said, only 7.5 percent of health club respondents decreased their fees in 2011, and just 4.1 percent said they would decrease fees in 2012.

When it comes to the number of people using their facilities, more than half (51.6 percent) reported an increase from 2010 to 2011, and slightly more expect to see further increases in 2012 (54.4 percent) and 2013 (41.1 percent). A falling number of respondents are projecting usage of their facilities to fall over the same time frame, with 11.2 percent reporting a drop in usage in 2011, 6.6 percent projecting a decrease in 2012, and 3.5 percent projecting a decrease in 2013. (See Figure 16.)

Respondents from parks and recreation organizations as well as camp facilities were the most likely to have seen an increase in usage at their facilities from 2010 to 2011. Some 55.4 percent of parks respondents and 53.9 percent of camp respondents said they had seen an increase in that time period. From 2011 to 2012, YMCA respondents are most likely to be expecting an increase in usage, with 63.9 percent projecting. They are followed by camp respondents, 61.8 percent of whom expect an increase in usage in 2012. From 2012 to 2013, more than three-quarters (75.3 percent) of YMCA respondents expect usage of their facilities to increase. Respond- ents from health clubs also were more likely than others to be projecting an increase in usage in 2013, with 66.7 percent of these respondents indicating they expect an increase.

Interestingly, YMCAs and health clubs are the most likely to report decreasing usage before 2012 to 2013. Nearly one-third (30.6 percent) of health clubs and nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) of YMCAs said they had seen decreasing usage from 2010 to 2011. These respondents also were the most likely to be expecting further decreases in usage from 2011 to 2012, with 11.8 percent of health clubs and 11.3 percent of YMCAs reporting they expected usage to fall.

Staffing Issues

On average, respondents to the survey employ a total of 135.7, a very slight increase from 2011, when respondents reported 134.2 employees on average. For all respondents, the primary types of employees include part-time, seasonal and volunteers. (See Figure 17.)

Respondents from YMCAs reported the largest number of employees, with 241.9, while those from community recreation and sports centers and camps reported the smallest number of employees, with 97.6 and 98.9, respectively.

As might be expected, schools and school districts had the largest number of full-time employees, while camps had the smallest number of full-timers. YMCAs employed the largest number of part-time employees and volunteers, and parks and recreation organizations had the largest number of seasonal workers.

When you look at the slight increase in overall employment at all respondents' facilities and break it down according to the segment of the industry covered, you can see that some segments saw much more dramatic growth, while others saw falling employment. The largest jump in number of employees was seen among community sports and recreation centers, where there was a 20.6 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. They were followed by camps, which saw a 16.1 percent increase. Increases were also seen for health clubs (6.9 percent), and colleges and universities (1.6 percent). Meanwhile, the biggest drop was seen among YMCA respondents, with a 6.5 percent decrease in average number of employees. They were followed by schools and school districts (a decrease of 4.1 percent) and parks organizations (a decrease of 1 percent).

This year's survey saw a decrease in the percentage of respondents who are planning to reduce staff. Only 7.1 percent of respondents to the 2012 survey, compared with 9.8 percent in 2011, said they were planning to reduce staff. Another 15 percent are planning to add staff. More than three-quarters (77.9 percent) said they will maintain current staff levels. (See Figure 18.)

Respondents from community recreation and sports centers, camp facilities and colleges and universities were the most likely to indicate that they were planning to increase staff in 2012. Some 27 percent of community center respondents, 24.1 percent of camp respondents and 21.8 percent of college respondents reported that they had plans to add staff in 2012. Respondents from schools and school districts, as well as parks and recreation organizations were the most likely to be planning to reduce staff, though a majority of these respondents indicated that they planned to maintain current staff levels. Some 11.8 percent of school respondents said they would be cutting staff in 2012, while 84 percent plan to maintain current staff levels. And, 9.4 percent of parks respondents said they had plans for staff reductions, while 79.1 percent indicated that they plan to maintain current staff.

Among those with plans to increase their staff, on average, respondents reported that they plan to add 21.5 workers to their staff in 2012. Respondents from YMCAs and from parks and recreation organizations reported the biggest hiring plans, with YMCA respondents planning to add 56.5 workers (of all kinds) on average, and parks respondents planning to add an average of 26.2 workers. The smallest staff increases were expected among schools and school districts, which planned to add four workers in 2012, and health clubs, which planned to add 6.6 workers in 2012.

A majority of respondents in 2012 require some of their staff members to be certified, though that number has fallen slightly since 2011. While 87.2 percent required certification in 2011, 83.6 percent of the 2012 survey respondents said they require certification. Furthermore, fewer said they plan to require certification in the future. Just 16.5 percent of those who do not currently require certification said they will add such a requirement in the future, compared with 20.4 percent last year. (See Figure 19.)

Respondents from YMCAs and from health, fitness and sports clubs were the most likely to require staff members to hold certifications, with 96 percent of YMCA respondents and 95.9 percent of health club respondents indicating they had such a requirement. Those from camps and community centers were least likely to require certification, though a majority of respondents from each of those types of facilities said they do require certification. (See Figure 20.)


Although there was a decrease in the percentage of respondents who indicated they require certification of some of their staff members, three of the five most commonly required certifications saw an increase in the percentage of respondents who said they ask for these credentials. The most common certification—CPR/AED/First Aid certification—saw an increase from 84.9 percent in 2011 to 88.4 percent in 2012. Likewise, the percentage of respondents requiring background checks increased from 78.1 percent to 79.1 percent, and those requiring aquatic management and pool operations certification increased from 33.5 percent to 36.9 percent. Other certifications required by more than a quarter of respondents include lifeguard certification (58.1 percent), personal training or fitness certification (29.5 percent), and pesticide application certification (25.2 percent). (See Figure 21.)

Other types of certification, while less commonly required by respondents, saw increases in the number of respondents who look for employees to have or earn these credentials. Certifications that saw an increase of 3 percent or more in the percentage of respondents who require them include: teaching certification (up to 15.8 percent from 11.7 percent in 2011); and athletic trainer (up to 16.9 percent, from 12.4 percent in 2011).


Of the top five most commonly required certifications, YMCAs are the most likely to require four. CPR/AED/First Aid certification, background checks, and lifeguard certifications are required by more than nine out of 10 YMCA respondents, with 97.9 percent of those who require certification asking for CPR/AED/First Aid certification, 94.8 percent asking for background checks, and 90.7 percent asking for lifeguard certifications. YMCA respondents were also the most likely to require at least some of their staff to be certified in aquatic management and pool operations. Some 58.8 percent of YMCA respondents reported that they require this certification.

Health clubs and fitness facilities were the most likely to require personal training and fitness certifications, with 84.3 percent of those requiring certification indicating they require some of their staff to earn these credentials. They were followed by YMCAs, 76.3 percent of whom require personal training and fitness certifications.

Respondents from parks and recreation organizations, on the other hand, were the most likely to require certifications in pesticide application (43.3 percent of park respondents who require any type of certification); playground safety (34.1 percent); and turf and grounds management (16.2 percent). They also were most likely to require at least some staff members to become Certified Parks & Recreation Professionals (CPRPs), with 21.2 percent of park respondents who require any credentials reporting that they ask for this certification.

Buildings

While there was virtually no change from 2011 to 2012 in the number of respondents who indicated that they have plans to build new facilities or make additions and renovations to their existing facilities, the amount budgeted for building plans has risen slightly.

A majority (60.1 percent) of respondents reported that they have plans for construction, including around a quarter who plan to build new facilities (23.9 percent) or make additions to their existing facilities (25.5 percent), and another 44.3 percent who have plans for renovations. (See Figure 22.)

Respondents from camps were the most likely to report that they had construction plans. Some 80.2 percent of camp respondents said they had plans to build new or renovate existing facilities. Respondents from health clubs were least likely to have construction plans, though around half (49.3 percent) of them said they do plan to build new or renovate existing facilities.

The average amount budgeted for these construction plans saw an increase of 7.2 percent from 2011 to 2012. Respondents this year are planning to spend an average of $4,225,000 on their new construction, additions and renovations.

Colleges and universities often build grand recreation centers that provide a social center focused on wellness for their students. This is reflected in the average amount planned for construction by college and university respondents. These respondents indicated they plan to spend an average of $7,605,000 on their facility construction plans, about 45.2 percent more than the average amount planned by all facility types. They were followed by schools and school districts, which planned to spend $5,607,000. The lowest averages were found among camps, which planned to spend $1,312,000, and health clubs, which planned $2,065,000 for their new construction, additions and renovations. (See Figure 23.)

While the overall change in the amount budgeted for construction jumped 7.2 percent from 2011 to 2012, there was much variation in the changing construction budgets depending on which facility type is being considered. The largest increases can be found among health clubs. Health club respondents this year reported an average budget for construction that is 91.7 percent higher than the amount reported by last year's respondents in this category. They were followed by camp respondents, whose construction budgets are 41.1 percent higher; and community sports and recreation centers, whose budgets are 39.9 percent higher. YMCAs and schools, on the other hand, reported decreases to the average amount planned for construction over the next few years. YMCAs saw a decrease of 27.8 percent in their average construction budget, while schools saw a drop of 15.9 percent. Park respondents and college respondents reported almost no change to the amounts they were budgeting to build new facilities or make additions and renovations.

As in years past, the most commonly included amenities at all facilities are locker rooms (found in 59.6 percent of respondents' facilities), classrooms and meeting rooms (58.8 percent), bleachers and seating (57.5 percent), outdoor sports courts for basketball, tennis, etc. (55.7 percent) and concession areas (54.9 percent). (See Figure 24.) All of these amenities also saw an increase in the percentage of respondents who include them in their facility from 2011 to 2012.

Synthetic turf sports fields, for sports like football, soccer, lacrosse, etc., saw the biggest increase in the number of respondents who currently include them in their facility from 2011 to 2012. In 2011, 13 percent of respondents said their facilities include synthetic turf fields. That number climbed to 17.2 percent in 2012. Indoor sports courts also saw an increase, from 49.8 percent to 52.3 percent.

More than half (53.3 percent) of respondents reported that their facilities included aquatic features, including indoor pools, outdoor pools, splash play areas, waterparks and spas and hot tubs. And, 11.5 percent of all respondents said they have plans to add such facilities in the future. For more information on trends in aquatic facilities revealed by the survey, click here.

Respondents from schools and school districts were the most likely to report that their facilities currently include locker rooms, classrooms and meeting rooms, bleachers and seating, concession areas, natural turf sports fields, indoor sports courts and outdoor running tracks at their facilities. More than seven out of 10 school respondents indicated that they included these amenities in their facilities.


Parks respondents were the most likely to indicate that their facilities currently include outdoor sports courts, playgrounds, park structures, skateparks, splash play areas, disc golf courses, golf courses, dog parks, ice rinks and waterparks.

Camp respondents were the most likely to report that their facilities currently include open spaces such as gardens and natural areas, trails, outdoor aquatic facilities, waterfronts or marinas, climbing walls, campgrounds, nature centers, challenge courses and skiing or other outdoor winter recreation amenities.

Health and fitness clubs were the most likely to indicate that their facilities include fitness centers and exercise studio rooms. YMCAs were most likely to include indoor aquatic facilities. And colleges and universities were most likely to include indoor running tracks and synthetic turf sports fields.

Nearly two in five respondents (39.6 percent) said they have plans to add more features and amenities to their facilities over the next several years. (See Figure 25.) Respondents from camps and from park organizations were the most likely to report that they had such plans. Half of camp respondents (50 percent) and nearly half of park respondents (48.6 percent) said they had plans to add features or amenities to their facilities over the next several years. Respondents from schools and school districts were least likely to have such plans, though nearly a third (29.7 percent) indicated they did plan to add features and amenities.

The most commonly planned features overall included synthetic turf sports fields (planned by 20.7 percent of those with plans to add features at their facilities), splash play areas (planned by 17.6 percent), playgrounds (planned by 17.1 percent), trails (planned by 16.9 percent) and park structures, such as restrooms, shelters, etc. (planned by 16.4 percent). The most commonly planned amenities change, of course, depending on the facility type involved.

Half of camp respondents had plans to add amenities to their facilities. Their most commonly planned additions included climbing walls (planned by 22.4 percent of camp respondents who indicated they will be adding features and amenities), splash play areas (planned by 20.7 percent) and trails (also planned by 20.7 percent).

Nearly half of park respondents (48.6 percent) were planning to add features and amenities. Their most commonly planned amenities include dog parks (planned by 29.6 percent of parks respondents who indicated they intend to add features and amenities to their facilities), followed by trails (planned by 25.5 percent), splash play areas (planned by 23.4 percent) and playgrounds (planned by 23.,4 percent).

More than a third of YMCAs (36.6 percent) were planning to add features and amenities to their facilities. The most commonly planned features among these respondents were splash play areas (planned by 29.7 percent of YMCA respondents who said they would be adding features), playgrounds (planned by 24.3 percent) and waterparks (planned by 21.6 percent).

More than a third (36.4 percent) of colleges and universities are also planning to add features and amenities. These respondents chose synthetic turf sports fields, locker rooms and climbing walls as the most likely additions at their facilities. Some 35.9 percent of college respondents with plans to add amenities at their facilities said they would be adding synthetic turf sports fields in the next several years. Another 22.5 percent are planning to add locker rooms, and 20.4 percent plan to add climbing walls.

Programming

There was no change in the percentage of respondents who indicated that they offer programs at their facility. The vast majority—96.8 percent—do so, with the most commonly offered programs also holding steady year over year. These include holiday events and other special events (offered by 62.5 percent of respondents), fitness programs (60.6 percent), educational programs (59.5 percent), day camps and summer camps (54.9 percent) and youth sports teams (51.8 percent). (See Figure 26.)

There was very little growth amongst the programs offered. Those that did show growth of at least 1 percentage point since 2011 include sports tournaments and races (up 2 percent), individual sports activities such as running clubs, swim clubs, lap swim, etc. (up 1.2 percent) and youth sports teams (up 1.1 percent).

Around three in 10 (29.5 percent) respondents said that they have plans to offer additional programming options in the next three years. The most commonly planned program additions include:

  1. Fitness programs (planned by 26.1 percent of those who will be adding programs)
  2. Educational programs (24.1 percent)
  3. Mind-body/balance programs, such as martial arts, yoga, Pilates or tai chi (22.7 percent)
  4. Teen programming (21.9 percent)
  5. Environmental education (21.7 percent)
  6. Day camps and summer camps (20.9 percent)
  7. Holiday events and other special events (20.7 percent)
  8. Active older adult programming (20.2 percent)
  9. Adult sports teams (18.2 percent)
  10. Sports tournaments or races (18.1 percent)

The top planned programs varied a great deal depending on the segment of the industry represented. Respondents from YMCAs, parks and camps were the most likely to report that they were planning to add programming of any kind over the next three years. Respondents from schools and school districts were least likely to be planning to add programs.


Nearly two-fifths (39.6 percent) of YMCA respondents said they were planning to add programming. YMCAs were more likely than respondents from other facility types to be planning to add sports tournaments and races, sport-specific training such as golf or tennis lessons, nutrition and diet counseling, performing arts such as dance and music, youth sports teams, swimming programs and climbing.

More than a third (36.3 percent) of parks respondents said they planned to add programs over the next three years. Their top three planned programs were environmental education, teen programming and fitness programs. Parks respondents were more likely than respondents from other facility types to be planning to add teen programming, environmental education, active older adult programs, adult sports teams, festivals and concerts, special needs programs, daycare or preschool programs, and therapeutic programs.

Nearly a third (32.8 percent) of camp respondents reported that they have plans to add additional programs at their facilities over the next three years. Their three most commonly planned programs include environmental education, holiday events and other special events, and educational programs. Camp respondents were more likely than respondents from other facility types to be planning to add day camps and summer camps, holiday events and other special events, arts and crafts, water sports, camping programs, and climbing programs.

Nearly a third (32.5 percent) of community recreation and sports centers said they were planning to add programs at their facilities. They were more likely than other facility types to be planning to add educational programs and trips.

Nearly a quarter (24.6 percent) of respondents from colleges and universities indicated that they plan to add programs at their facilities over the next several years. They were more likely than respondents from other facility types to report that they were planning to add aquatic exercise programs at their facilities.

Nearly a quarter (23.3 percent) of respondents from health clubs said they have plans to add additional programs at their facilities. Health clubs were more likely than any other facility type to be planning to add fitness programs, mind-body/balance programs, individual sports activities and personal training.

Challenges

There's little doubt that the economy is still the primary challenge for most respondents. But it is not the only issue of concern.

Respondents' top current concern now and over the next three years is equipment and facility maintenance. (See Figure 27.) In fact, this has risen as an issue of prominent concern. In 2011, 54.9 percent said it was their top concern other than the economy. This year, 61.7 percent listed it as their top concern other than the economy.

Of course, many respondents' comments on the areas of top concern relate back to the economic situation and the impact it has had on their operating budgets and ability to get things done. Equipment and facility maintenance becomes difficult or impossible when resources—including money and staff—for ongoing maintenance are reduced or eliminated. Many readers cited a lack of funding to make improvements and needed renovations at their facilities. Others mentioned that usage at their facilities has increased, but the budget for new equipment is the same, which means equipment is getting worn out faster.


Staffing issues are also a prominent concern, with 41.9 percent of respondents indicating this was a top issue for them. Respondents also tended to relate this challenge back to the cuts in funding and/or revenues that resulted from the economic downturn. Many cited that they are being required to "do more with less." Some mentioned that they are attempting to increase their services and offerings, but without additional staff.

In addition to the challenges brought about by staffing cuts, several readers indicated that they were concerned about the effect of an aging staff. As one respondent said, "Quality/knowledge as my experienced staff are getting older and close to retirement," was the main concern, adding, "I am concerned that we cannot hire new staff to learn and develop prior to their leaving."

Interestingly, the third most common concern—marketing facilities and programs and increasing participation, named by 41.2 percent of respondents as a top concern—was also tied back to budget issues by many respondents. "This is the area in our budget that took one of the most significant cuts in the past few years, so our talent in these areas and our presence in the market have been diminished," one respondent explained.

This is a sword that cuts both ways, with budget cuts reducing facilities' ability to do the marketing necessary to increase participation, at the same time that many potential participants have seen their own family budgets cut to the point that they are unable to participate.

More respondents cited safety and risk management as a top concern in 2012 than in the 2011 survey. In 2011, 36.6 percent said this was a top concern. That number rose to 38.3 percent this year. This also ties back to budgets, and to equipment and facility maintenance and staffing issues as well. Obviously, equipment and facilities that are not maintained to a certain standard will begin to fail and can create hazards and additional risk for users. At the same time, staffing cuts can increase risk when fewer employees are able to oversee facility operations.

Many respondents reported that some areas of concern would grow worse over the next several years. These include environmental and conservation issues, legislative issues, accessibility and fitness for older adults.

Many readers provided additional commentary on their concerns about legislative issues. "Unfunded mandates" were cited as a problem by many.

"Passing legislation without realizing what the cost is going to be for the facility or organization" was named as a top issue by one respondent, who added, "More facilities will close rather than abide by the legislation."

Another called this problem legislation "…unfunded mandates to improve equipment or changes to laws for which there is no funding. This, along with aging equipment and maintenance, are major issues."

As has been the case for the past several years, the elephant in the room is the economic downturn and the impact it has had on budgets and resources for the majority of facilities.

"We have continually been asked to do the same or more with less funding," one respondent explained. "We cannot sustain the level of service with the resources we are being given."

Another put it more succinctly: "Shrinking budgets, but no decrease in expectations from leaders and customers."



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