Which Cities Have the Best Opportunities for Recreation? Here's a Go-To List | Sports Destination Management

Which Cities Have the Best Opportunities for Recreation? Here's a Go-To List

Jul 25, 2018 | By: Michael Popke

Planners have been following the development of private competition venues for years. But quietly gaining ground have been park and rec facilities, where disc golf, Little League and other sports play out. It was only a matter of time, therefore, before someone developed a ratings system for cities with the best recreational opportunities overall. And with July as Parks and Recreation Month, there seems to be no better time.

Our friends at personal-finance website WalletHub have ranked the best and worst cities for recreation. The results are based on accessibility of entertainment and recreational facilities, quality of parks, weather and other factors in the 100 largest cities in the United States.

Some of the results are surprising.

Number one on the list? Orlando, Fla. — followed by Las Vegas, San Diego, Cincinnati and Tampa, Fla. Rounding out the top 10 are Atlanta; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Tucson, Ariz.; Boise, Idaho; and Philadelphia.

The worst city for recreation? Irving, Texas, according to WalletHub. Memphis, Tenn.; Gilbert, Ariz.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Oakland, Calif.; Durham, N.C.; Wichita, Kan.; Anchorage, Alaska; Hialeah, Fla.; and Jersey City, N.J., are not far ahead of Irving.

Some other noteworthy stats from the report:

  • Most tennis courts per capita: Chicago (Gilbert, Ariz., has the least)
  • Highest percentage of parkland: Tie between Anchorage, Alaska, and Fremont, Calif. (Hialeah, Fla., has the lowest) 
  • Highest spending on parks per capita: St. Louis (Jersey City, N.J., has the lowest)

In some ways, many communities are still recovering from the recession, according to Dale Larson, professor of practice and honors faculty at Arizona State University’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “The great recession of 2007-08 affected municipalities with severe negative financial outcomes, including slashed operational budgets and reduced capital debt abilities,” he told WalletHub. “Parks and recreation services were among those receiving significant reductions.”

Deb Jordan, professor of recreation and leisure studies at East Carolina University, also offered advice for communities looking to boost their sports tourism status. “I see communities building parks and facilities without planning for operational costs, building facilities with a goal of becoming a sports tourism destination without first conducting a feasibility study, and underestimating the actual cost of construction,” she said. “Local entities that build without an operational master plan for the community also can run into difficulties.”

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