A Look at Regional Trends

Regional Information


Just as the depth and impact of the economic recession varied a great deal from one region to another, different regions of the United States have begun to recovery more or less rapidly. These varying degrees of recession and recovery continue to affect budgets and revenues at recreation, sports and fitness facilities across the country. In this section, we take a look at some of the regional variances, not only in the financial information provided by respondents, but also in their expectations in terms of memberships, staffing, facility growth, programming and more.

As in past reports, the regional distribution of respondents coincides closely with U.S. Census population numbers, with the exception of the Midwest. According to census numbers from 2010, 17.9 percent of the U.S. population lives in the Northeast, 21.7 percent in the Midwest, 19.4 percent in the South Atlantic states, 17.7 percent in the South Central states, and 23.3 percent in the West. In 2014, 15.4 percent of respondents are from the Northeast, 31.5 percent live in the Midwest, 17 percent are from the South Atlantic, 15.1 percent from the South Central states and 20.1 percent live in the West. Less than one in 100 (0.9 percent) are from outside of the United States.

Respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic states were more likely than others to be from suburban communities. Nearly half (47.6 percent) of Northeastern respondents and 44.7 percent of South Atlantic respondents were from suburban communities. Respondents from the South Central states were least likely to be from suburban communities, with 30.4 percent of respondents in this region reporting they worked in suburban areas.

Respondents from the Midwest and the South Central states were more likely than others to be from rural areas. Some 44 percent of Midwestern respondents and 39.3 percent of South Central respondents were from rural areas. Respondents from the South Atlantic states were least likely to be from rural communities. Just 27.6 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they worked in rural areas.

Respondents from the South Central states and the West were more heavily weighted toward urban areas than those in other regions. Some 30.4 percent of South Central respondents and 27.8 percent of Western respondents were from urban communities. Respondents from the Northeast were least likely to be from urban communities, with 20.2 percent of these respondents working in urban areas.

Public organizations were most likely to be found in the Midwest, with nearly a third (32.6 percent) of public organization respondents indicating they call the Midwest home. It was followed by the West (21 percent), the South Atlantic (17.2 percent), the South Central region (14.3 percent), and the Northeast (13.9 percent).

Private, for-profit organizations were more likely to be from the Midwest and the West, with 25.8 percent of these respondents coming from the Midwest, and 24 percent coming from the West. They were followed by the Northeast (17.5 percent), South Central (16.6 percent) and South Atlantic states (15.3 percent).

Private nonprofit organizations were much more likely to be from the Midwest than from any other region. Some 31.1 percent of private nonprofit respondents call the Midwest home. They were far less likely to be from the Northeast (18.9 percent), South Atlantic (16.8 percent), South Central (16.6 percent) or West (15.6 percent).

Different types of facilities also were more likely to be found in some regions than others. For example, although parks were the predominant facility type in all regions, they were much more prevalent among respondents in the South Atlantic states and in the West. In the South Atlantic, 45.9 percent of respondents worked for park facilities, and in the West, 41 percent were with parks. In contrast, only 28.1 percent of South Central respondents were from parks. (See Figure 29.)

Looking at other facility types, colleges and universities were more common among respondents in the South Central states, where more than a quarter (21.7 percent) were with colleges and universities. They were followed by the Northeast, with 18.5 percent of its respondents representing colleges. Respondents in the West were least likely to be from colleges, with only 12.8 percent of respondents in this region indicating they worked for this type of facility.

Schools and school districts were more predominant in the Midwest and South Central states, where 16.9 percent and 12.5 percent of respondents, respectively, worked for schools and school districts. By comparison, only 5.4 percent of South Atlantic respondents worked for schools and school districts.

Health club respondents were slightly more evenly distributed, from a high of 3.7 percent of South Central respondents to a low of 1.9 percent of Midwest respondents. YMCAs, on the other hand, were more common among Northeastern respondents, where 8.9 percent represented YMCAs. This compares with just 3.7 percent of Western respondents. Camps were more common among Northeastern respondents as well, with 6.6 percent of these respondents indicating they worked for camp facilities. Community recreation and sports centers, on the other hand, were more commonly found among respondents in the West.

With the exception of health clubs and community centers, all facility types, like the survey population in general, were most likely to be found in the Midwest.

Nearly three in 10 parks respondents (29.1 percent) were from the Midwest. They were followed by parks respondents in the West (22.4 percent), South Atlantic (21.3 percent), Northeast (15.4 percent) and South Central region (11.5 percent).

Some 31.1 percent of college respondents were from the Midwest. They were followed by respondents in the South Central states (19.6 percent), Northeast (17.1 percent), and the South Atlantic and West, each of which is home to 15.4 percent of the survey's college respondents.

Nearly half (46.2 percent) of school respondents call the Midwest their home, making this the facility type most heavily weighted toward the Midwest. They were followed by the West (17.1 percent), South Central (16.3 percent), Northeast (12.4 percent), and South Atlantic (8 percent).

Health clubs were more evenly distributed across the regions, and were most likely to be found in the West. Nearly a quarter (24.1 percent) of health club respondents call the West their home. They were followed by the Midwest (22.4 percent), the South Central region (20.7 percent), the South Atlantic (19 percent), and the Northeast (12.1 percent).

Some 31.7 percent of YMCA respondents were from the Midwest. They were followed by respondents from the Northeast (24.4 percent), South Atlantic (15.4 percent), South Central (14.6 percent) and the West (13 percent).

Camps were the second most likely to be found in the Midwest, with 39.7 percent of camps respondents reporting that they call the Midwest home. They were followed by the Northeast (17.1 percent), West and South Central (each at 15.8 percent) and South Atlantic states (11.6 percent).

Finally, community centers were most likely to be found in the West, with 27 percent of community center respondents indicating that they were from this region. They were followed by the Midwest (25.7 percent), South Atlantic (16.4 percent), Northeast (14.5 percent) and South Central region (13.8 percent).

A majority of respondents in all regions reported that they form partnerships outside of their organizations to enhance their operations, programming, marketing, funding and more. Those from the West were the most likely to report that they formed such partnerships, with 87.2 percent indicating they had done so. They were followed by the South Atlantic (86.4 percent of whom form partnerships), Midwest (84.2 percent), Northeast (82.1 percent) and South Central region (81.7 percent).

Interestingly, though those in the West were the most likely to form any sort of partnership, they were not the most likely region to team up with some of the most common partner organizations. For example, local schools and local government, the two most common partners found among all regions, were most likely to be partners with respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic regions, respectively.

In addition to local schools, respondents in the Northeast were the most likely to partner with state government and private health clubs. In addition to local government, respondents in the South Atlantic were also most likely to partner with YMCAs. Respondents in the South Central region were the most likely to partner with colleges and universities. And respondents in the West, in addition to being the most likely to partner at all, were the most likely to form partnerships with nonprofit organizations, corporate or local business, federal government, health care or medical facilities, and the military.

There also was some variation across the regions in terms of the primary audience served by respondents' facilities. Children ages 4 to 12 were more likely to be the primary audience in the Northeast and South Atlantic states, where 20 percent and 19.8 percent of respondents, respectively, named this as their main audience served. Children ages 4 to 12 were the least likely to be the primary audience in the South Central states, where just 11.1 percent of respondents said this was their main audience.

Teens were most likely to be the primary audience of Midwest respondents, with 12.2 percent of these respondents saying that teens were their primary audience. Respondents in the South Atlantic were least likely to serve teens as their main audience, with just 6.8 percent of these respondents indicating their primary audience was made up of teenagers. College students were most likely to be the primary audience of respondents in the South Central region, reflecting the predominance of college and university respondents in that region. Some 20 percent of South Central respondents said college students were their primary audience. Respondents in the West were least likely to name college students as their primary audience, with 11.1 percent of Western respondents naming them as the main group using their facilities. Adults ages 19 to 64 also were most likely to be the primary audience in the South Central region, with 20.9 percent of respondents in this region naming adults as their primary audience. They were least likely to be the primary audience for respondents in the Northeast, where 14 percent name adults as their main user group. Seniors were more likely to be the primary audience in the South Atlantic than in other regions. Some 3.3 percent of South Atlantic respondents said seniors were their primary audience. At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 0.5 percent of respondents in the Northeast said seniors were their primary audience.

Budgets & Members

When it comes to the number of people using their facilities, respondents in the South Atlantic and Western regions are most likely to report increasing usage, year over year, from 2012 through 2015. From 2012 to 2013, 57.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 53.8 percent of Western respondents said the number of people using their facilities had increased. From 2013 to 2014, 57.4 percent of Western respondents and 57 percent of South Atlantic respondents expect further increases. And from 2014 to 2015, 63.9 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 57 percent of Western respondents expect usage to grow. (See Figure 30.)

Respondents in the Midwest were the least likely to report that the number of people using their facilities had increased from 2012 to 2013. Less than half (47.1 percent) of Midwestern respondents said usage had increased in that year. From 2013 to 2014, Northeastern respondents are least likely to expect increasing usage, but from 2014 to 2015, Midwestern respondents are again the least likely to report that they expect the number of people using their facilities to grow.

Just as they are the most likely to be expecting increasing usage at their facilities, respondents in the West and South Atlantic regions also employ the most people. Respondents in the West lead with an average staff of 133.3 people, followed by the South Atlantic with 129.7. They were followed by the Northeast, at 125.3; the Midwest, at 124.5; and the South Central region, at 115.8. Likewise, respondents in the South Atlantic and Western regions are the most likely to report that they have plans to add more staff this year. Some 22.6 percent of South Atlantic respondents and 21.4 percent of Western respondents said they would be adding staff. Respondents in the Midwest were least likely to be planning to add staff, with 14 percent indicating they had plans to do so. Falling in between, 14.3 percent in the Northeast and 18.5 percent in the South Central region have plans to add staff.

Respondents from the West were the most likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2012 to 2013. Some 43.9 percent of Western respondents indicated that their revenues had risen in that year. They also were the most likely to expect revenues to increase from 2014 to 2015, with 49.8 percent projecting an increase in 2015. From 2013 to 2014, the South Central region is the most likely to expect revenues to grow, with 47.1 percent of South Central respondents projecting revenue growth in that year.

Respondents in the Midwest were the most likely to report that their revenues had fallen from 2012 to 2013, and also were most likely to expect declines in 2014. Some 16.5 percent of Midwestern respondents said that their revenues had declined from 2012 to 2013, and 10.3 percent project a decline in 2014. From 2014 to 2015, South Central respondents are the most likely to project declining revenues, with 7.4 percent of these respondents expecting a de-crease in that year.

Respondents from the West reported the highest average operating expenditure of all respondents for fiscal 2013 at $1,561,000, 9.1 percent higher than the average for all respondents. Respondents in the South Central and South Atlantic states also reported average operating expenditures that were higher than the average for all regions. For those in the South Central region, the average operating budget was 8.5 percent higher than for all respondents in 2013, and for those in the South Atlantic, it was 7.1 percent higher. Respondents in the Northeast and Midwest reported average operating expenditures for fiscal 2013 that were lower than the average for all respondents by 10.1 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively. (See Figure 31.)

In every region but the South Central states, respondents reported a decline in operating expenditures from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013. The greatest decrease was seen in the Northeast, where operating expenditures fell from an average of $1,358,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,287,000 in fiscal 2013. The Midwest reported a 4.9 percent decrease, and the South Atlantic region and Western region followed, at 4.7 percent and 3 percent respectively. In the South Central states, on the other hand, average operating expenditures increased by 14.3 percent from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2013.

All regions project operating expenditures to increase from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2015, with the greatest increase found in the South Central region. In the South Central region, operating expenditures are projected to grow by 20.6 percent from $1,359,000 in fiscal 2012 to $1,639,000 in fiscal 2015. More modest increases are expected in other regions, led by the Midwest, where respondents project an increase of 4.8 percent from fiscal 2012 to fiscal 2015.

A majority of respondents in all regions reported that they had taken actions to reduce their operating expenditures at their facilities. Those in the Northeast and in the West were the most likely to report that they had done so, while those in the South Central region were least likely. Some 85.5 percent of Northeastern respondents and 85.4 percent of Western respondents indicated that they had taken actions to reduce expenditures, compared with 79.3 percent of respondents in the South Central region. Falling in between, 83.6 percent of Midwestern respondents and 83 percent of South Atlantic respondents reported that they had taken such action.

Respondents from the Midwest were the most likely to have improved energy efficiency (54.4 percent of Midwestern respondents, compared with 51.2 percent of all respondents) or shortened their season of operation (9.3 percent vs. 8.3 percent). Respondents from the West were the most likely to report that they had increased fees (46.7 percent vs. 41.5 percent of all respondents), reduced staff (41.3 percent vs. 37.8 percent), put construction or renovation plans on hold (32.9 percent vs. 29.5 percent), or cut programming or services (26.8 percent vs. 21.8 percent). Respondents from the South Atlantic region were the most likely to have reduced their hours of operation (23.7 percent vs. 20.1 percent of all respondents). And respondents from the South Central region were the most likely to have closed facilities (7.8 percent vs. 6.8 percent of all respondents).

Construction Plans

In every region but the Midwest, respondents in 2014 were more likely to indicate that they had construction plans over the next three years than respondents in 2013. Those from the South Central region were once again the most likely to report that they had plans for construction. More than two-thirds (67.2 percent, up from 66 percent in 2013) of these respondents said they had plans for construction over the next three years. They were followed by respondents from the South Atlantic region (66.6 percent, up from 65.4 percent), the Northeast (66.1 percent, up from 64 percent) and the West (63.6 percent, up from 58.7 percent). Respondents in the Midwest were the least likely to report that they had construction plans, though 60 percent did indicate that they would be building, a slight decrease from 2013, when 60.9 percent of Midwestern respondents had such plans. (See Figure 32.)

Respondents in the South Central region also were the most likely to report that they had plans to build new facilities or make additions. Some 34 percent of South Central respondents said they would be building new facilities, and 34.3 percent said they would be making additions. They were followed by the South Atlantic, where 29.9 percent reported plans for new construction, and 29.9 percent reported plans for additions. Respondents from the Northeast and South Atlantic were most likely to report that they had plans to make renovations to their existing facilities. More than half (52.1 percent) of Northeastern respondents and 48.5 percent of South Atlantic respondents indicated that they were planning renovations.

Respondents from the West reported the highest average budget for their construction plans, at $5,361,000, 19.3 percent more than the average for all regions ($4,495,000). Likewise, respondents from the West reported the greatest increase in construction budgets from 2012 to 2014—a 14.9 percent increase. (See Figure 33.)

Respondents in the South Central region reported the second highest spending plans for construction in 2014, 9.9 percent higher than the average for all regions. However, this region reported a decrease in construction spending of 1.5 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Respondents in the South Atlantic region had the lowest construction budget in 2014, 14.8 percent lower than the average for all regions. This region also was the only one other than the South Central region to see construction budgets fall from 2012 to 2014.

The Northeast and Midwest had construction budgets that were slightly lower—by 6.7 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively—than the average for all regions. However, these two regions reported growth in construction budgets from 2012 to 2014. For the Midwest, that growth was very moderate—just a 0.7 percent increase. In the Northeast, though, construction budgets increased by 14.1 percent from 2012 to 2014.

The types of features that are likely to be found in some regions sometimes showcase how different the recreation, sports and fitness market can be depending on where you are. In some cases, it's a simple matter of climate. For example, indoor aquatic facilities might be expected to be more prevalent where it's cold. Likewise with ice rinks and winter recreation facilities. Other features showcase a regional popularity, such as disc golf, dog parks and skateparks.

Respondents from the Northeast were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included: bleachers and seating (59.2 percent); outdoor sports courts (57.7 percent); playgrounds (54.5 percent); natural turf sports fields (56 percent); open spaces such as gardens and natural areas (52.4 percent); trails (46.1 percent); exercise studios (44.9 percent); synthetic turf sports fields (24.1 percent); nature centers (14.5 percent); challenge courses or ropes courses (11.9 percent); and ice rinks (17.6 percent).

Respondents in the Midwest were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included: locker rooms (59 percent); concession areas (57.8 percent); indoor aquatic facilities (29.1 percent); indoor running tracks (22.8 percent); disc golf courses (20.9 percent); campgrounds (16.6 percent); waterparks (10.6 percent); and skiing or winter recreation areas (9.6 percent).

In the South Atlantic region, respondents were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included a waterfront or marina (22.1 percent) or amusements such as rides and arcades (4 percent).

South Central region respondents were more likely than those in other regions to report that their facilities included indoor sports courts (49.5 percent); fitness centers (49.8 percent); and outdoor running tracks (25.2 percent).

Finally, in the West respondents were more likely than those in other regions to include the following features in their facilities: classrooms and meeting rooms (59.5 percent); park structures such as shelters and restrooms (49.3 percent); community or multipurpose centers (39.8 percent); outdoor aquatic facilities (38 percent); climbing walls (20.2 percent); childcare centers (21.6 percent); skateparks (23.9 percent); splash play areas (17.5 percent); golf courses (17.5 percent); dog parks (18.4 percent); and bike or BMX parks (8.6 percent.)

The five features that show the greatest variation from region to region include: outdoor aquatic facilities, synthetic turf sports fields, disc golf courses, skateparks and ice rinks. While 38 percent in the West have outdoor aquatic facilities, in the Northeast, only 21.4 percent of respondents include them. Nearly a quarter (24.1 percent) of Northeastern respondents include synthetic turf sports fields, compared with just 12.2 percent in the South Central region. Some 20.9 percent of Midwestern respondents include disc golf courses, compared with just 6 percent in the Northeast. Some 23.9 percent of respondents in the West include skateparks, vs. 8.2 percent in the South Central region. And 17.6 percent in the Northeast include ice rinks, while none of the South Central respondents have ice rinks.

Representing a change from the past two years' reports, when South Atlantic respondents were most likely to be planning to add features, in 2014, respondents from the Northeast were most likely to report that they had plans to add more features to their facilities over the next few years. Some 41.7 percent of Northeastern respondents indicated that they had such plans. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add playgrounds, fitness centers, concession areas, exercise studio rooms, classrooms and meeting rooms, locker rooms, climbing walls, childcare centers and golf courses.

Some 39.2 percent of respondents in the Midwest have plans to add features at their facilities over the next several years. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add indoor sports courts, indoor running tracks, waterfronts and marinas, ice rinks, and skiing or outdoor winter recreation areas.

Some 38.3 percent of respondents in the South Central region have plans to add features at their facilities. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add splash play areas, park structures such as shelters and restroom buildings, bleachers and seating, outdoor sports courts, natural turf sports fields, challenge courses or ropes courses, waterparks, nature centers, indoor aquatic facilities, outdoor running tracks, bike or BMX parks, campgrounds, outdoor aquatic facilities and amusement such as rides and arcades.

Some 34.3 percent of respondents in the West have plans to add features at their facilities. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add synthetic turf sports fields and open spaces such as gardens and natural areas.

Finally, respondents in the South Atlantic region were least likely to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities. Some 34 percent of these respondents said that they had such plans, and they were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add trails, disc golf courses, dog parks, community or multipurpose centers and skateparks.

Programming

Most types of programming were most commonly offered either in the West or the Northeast. As was the case in 2013, respondents from the West in 2014 were most likely to offer many types of programs, including: fitness programs; adult sports teams; programs for active older adults; aquatic exercise programs; individual sports activities such as running clubs; teen programming; personal training; daycare or preschool; special needs programs; nutrition or diet counseling; therapeutic programs and climbing programs.

Respondents in the Northeast were more likely than those in other regions to offer holiday events and other special events; educational programs; day camps and summer camps; youth sports teams; mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi; swimming programming; sports training such as tennis or golf instruction; arts and crafts, trips; performing arts such as music, dance and theater; and environmental education.

Respondents from the South Atlantic region were more likely than those in other regions to provide sports tournaments or races; festivals and concerts; and water sports.

Respondents from the South Central region were more likely than those in other regions to provide camping programs.

Interestingly, respondents from the Midwest were not more likely than those from any other region to offer any specific type of programming.

Respondents from the Northeast were the most likely to report that they had plans to add more programming at their facilities over the next three years. Some 32.4 percent of Northeastern respondents will be adding programs. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to have plans to add: educational programs; programs for active older adults; teen programming; adult sports teams; environmental education; special needs programming; individual sports activities; nutrition and diet counseling; performing arts programs; daycare or preschool programs; swimming programs; aquatic exercise programs; and climbing programs.

Some 29.1 percent of South Atlantic respondents said they have plans to add programs over the next three years. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add fitness programs; holidays and other special events; sports tournaments and races; sport training; water sports; arts and crafts; trips; and therapeutic programs.

In the Midwest, 28.6 percent of respondents said they plan to add new programming at their facilities over the next few years. They were more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi; and day camps and summer camps.

Some 28 percent of respondents in the South Central states said they plan to add new programs over the next three years. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add personal training and camping programs.

Finally, respondents in the West were the least likely to report that they plan to add new programs at their facilities. That said, more than a quarter (26.1 percent) do have such plans. They are more likely than respondents in other regions to be planning to add youth sports teams; and festivals and concerts.



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