Recreation Career Field Structure
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that there are more than 100,000 businesses in the United States that serve the recreation industry. They range in size from huge theme parks, such as Disney World, to local YMCA centers. Each business provides an outlet for leisure activity that usually falls into one of three large categories— sports, amusement, and performing arts.
Fitness and health clubs are popular forms of sports recreation. Such clubs offer swimming, exercise equipment, weight training, and classes such as aerobics, yoga, and boxing. Some clubs, such as the YMCA and local park districts, are open to the public, but the majority of fitness clubs are operated on a membership basis.
Sports clubs offer just about any type of organized activity such as tennis, racquetball, golf, and yachting. Batting cages, archery, hunt clubs, and shooting ranges, both indoor and outdoor, are included in this category. Private clubs are open only to paying members and their guests; public clubs have facilities available for a small fee. Most bowling alleys are open to the public, although many reserve key times or lanes for organized leagues.
The largest sports category is commercial sports organizations and facilities that promote professional athletic events such as basketball or hockey. For example the sports organization that owns and manages the Chicago Bulls basketball team also promotes their games at the United Center sports facility. Baseball, soccer, wrestling, dressage, polo, professional ice skating, boxing, and football, among others, are all represented by commercial sports organizations and facilities. Nonprofessional sports are also sometimes organized and offered by large facilities, such as amateur or collegiate versions of all sports, stock car races, and fishing contests. Racing facilities also fall under this category, including tracks for horse, dog, and automobile racing.
Employment opportunities in this sector of the recreation industry include athletes, administrative workers, coaches, trainers, managers, instructors, marketing and sales workers, promoters, groundskeepers and groundsmanagers, security workers, stadium and ticket office attendants, and food concession attendants. A very small percentage of people in this field are fortunate and talented enough to make their living as professional athletes or performers.
Theme parks, amusement parks, carnivals, and arcades are popular recreational destinations. Water parks, which offer a variety of water slides, swimming pools, and wave pools, are also included in this category. Such places employ thousands of workers to manage the park and attractions for positions ranging from retail clerks and service attendants to facility managers and lifeguards. Resorts and ranches, offering activities such as skiing, horseback riding, swimming, along with comfortable hotel accommodations, are found throughout the United States.
An increasingly popular recreation option is the youth-oriented facility. Obstacle courses composed of ball pools, mazes and tunnels, padded slides, arcade games, and entertainment provide hours of fun to children of all ages. Many kid zones require children and parents to wear matching badges or some form of identification; such precautions allow children to roam the facility freely and safely. Children’s museums engage the interest, curiosity, and imagination of youngsters with interactive displays, arts and crafts, and hands-on learning experiences.
Cruise ships, sailing to just about every port in the world, are quickly gaining in popularity as an all-inclusive source of amusement. Activities and entertainment are offered at a nonstop pace, no matter the length of the cruise. Activity personnel, entertainers, cooks, dining attendants, and housekeepers are some of the recreation workers needed to staff a cruise ship.
Camps and campgrounds also provide recreation options for a fee. Day and summer camps offer organized activities ranging from sports, hiking, arts and crafts, and other outdoor events. Campgrounds provide a safe area where people can set up their campers, recreational vehicles, or mobile homes for a short time or extended vacation. Campgrounds usually offer electric and water hook ups, cooking facilities, and bathroom and shower facilities. Some also have tennis and basketball courts, fishing ponds, and common entertainment facilities and activities.
Gambling venues such as casinos and riverboats are major players in the recreation industry. Not only do they provide countless jobs ranging from dealers to change attendants, they are important sources of revenue for their states. Large casinos, especially those located in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are affiliated with hotels or resorts. Many gaming facilities are operated by Native American tribes on reservations throughout the United States.
Musical entertainment such as classical, jazz, rock, hip hop, blues, folk, or ethnic music is a form of recreation. Similar to professional sports, this is a tough and competitive field; very few people are able to make performing or entertaining a full-time job. Most employment opportunities are in the production side of the industry—agents, managers, advertising and marketing workers, security workers, stage and lighting workers, designers, and concessions workers.
The theater provides many employment opportunities for the recreation industry. Theatrical productions, whether full scale Broadway shows or small dinner theater numbers, need performers, promoters, set decorators, ushers, directors, producers, musicians, and stage crews. The theater classification includes live musical productions, opera, and dance productions such as ballet, jazz, and cultural dance events. Alternate forms of theater include live comedy, performance art, and the circus.