Feature Article - June 2012
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2012 State of the Managed Recreation Industry

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

By Emily Tipping


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.