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Trends in Rec Centers

A Look at Trends in Sports & Recreation Centers


Respondents representing community and private recreation and sports centers made up 6.5% of the response to the Industry Report survey. A majority, 63.5% of these respondents said they were with publicly owned rec and sports centers, while 21.2% were with privately owned, nonprofit facilities, and 15.3% were with privately owned, for-profit facilities.

Rec center respondents were slightly more geographically dispersed than others. Some 27.1% were located in the Midwest, and another 27.1% were found in the West. Smaller numbers were from the South Atlantic (22.4%), South Central (12.9%) and Northeastern (10.6%) regions.

More than half (50.6%) of rec center respondents said they were located in suburban communities. Another 27.1% were to be found in urban areas, and 22.4% said they were in rural communities.

Some 87.1% of rec center respondents said they had partnered with outside organizations. The most common partners for rec center respondents were: local schools (70.6%); local government (62.4%); nonprofit organizations (50.6%); corporate or local businesses (47.1%); and healthcare or medical facilities (29.4%).

Revenues & Expenditures

Some 42.9% of rec center respondents said their revenues had increased from 2018 to 2019. Another 44% said there had been no change in revenues in this time frame, and 13.1% reported a decrease

In January 2020 when the Industry Report Survey was taken, rec center respondents were slightly more optimistic about the year to come, with 53.6% expecting revenues to increase in 2020, while 45.2% expected no change, and 1.2% expected a decrease.

The COVID-19 Update Survey taken in early May showed nine out of 10 (90%) rec center respondents expecting a decrease in revenues in 2020. Another 5% said they expected no change, while 5% still expected an increase. Nearly one-third (32.5%) of rec center respondents said they expected their revenues to fall by 10 to 20%, 35% expected a drop of 30 to 40%, and 22.% said they expected their revenues to fall by 50% or more.

Rec center respondents in 2020 reported that their operating expenses in 2019 were 26.2% higher than in 2018, increasing from an average of $1,220,000 to $1,540,00. Looking forward, they projected an increase of 7.8% from 2019 to 2021, to an average of $1,660,000.

On average, rec center respondents said they recover 51.1% of their operating costs via revenues.

Rec center respondents were slightly less likely than others to report that they had taken action over the past year to reduce their operating costs, though a majority (79.8%) said they had done so. The most common actions rec center respondents had taken to reduce their costs include: improving energy efficiency (53.6%); increasing fees (46.4%); and reducing staff (26.2%).

Rec Center Facilities

Some 62.4% of rec center respondents in 2020 said they had plans for construction over the next three years. Some 18.8% said they were planning to build new facilities, while 27.1% were planning additions, and 49.4% were planning renovations.

On average, rec center respondents were planning to spend $5,560,000 on their construction plans. This represents a 14.6% increase from 2019, when rec center respondents planned to spend an average of $4,850,000.

The 10 features most commonly included at rec center respondents' facilities include: Wi-Fi services; classrooms and meeting rooms; playgrounds; bleachers and seating; locker rooms; exercise studios; indoor courts for sports like basketball and volleyball; fitness centers; park shelters; and outdoor courts for sports like basketball and tennis.

Rec center respondents were slightly less likely than others to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. Some 38.8% of rec center respondents said they had such plans, compared with 43.6% of non-rec-center respondents.

The most commonly planned additions were:

  1. Splash play areas (planned by 18.2% of rec center respondents who will be adding features)
  2. Playgrounds (18.2%)
  3. Synthetic turf sports fields (18.2%)
  4. Outdoor sports courts (18.2%)
  5. Fitness centers (18.2%)
  6. Concession areas (18.2%)
  7. Park shelters (12.1%)
  8. Park restroom structures (12.1%)
  9. Bleachers and seating (12.1%)
  10. Exercise studios (12.1%)