State Athletic Facilities Plan


The 2018 Washington State Community Outdoor Athletic Facilities Plan provides a strategic direction to meet the needs of Washington State residents in the next 5 years. It is meant to guide decisions and determine how to invest limited funding on the most important athletic facility needs.

Athletics are any form of exercise, sports, or games engaged in by a person who is trained or skilled and requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina. An outdoor athletic facility is something built, installed, or established to serve athletics for competition or casual play.


The goal of the 2018 Washington State Community Outdoor Athletic Facilities Plan is to ensure adequate supply of athletic facilities for competition and casual play. A key priority to meeting this goal is to identify gaps in the number and types of athletic facilities across the state. It includes a Mapped Inventory of existing athletic facilities which is a resource to identify where to new facilities may be needed based on demand. As a supplement to 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan, the State Community Athletic Facilities Plan also informs state and local planning efforts.

Authority statement

This plan is authorized by the Community Outdoor Athletic Fields Act, Revised Code of Washington 79A.25.820. This plan is an appendix to and relies on the research and findings within the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan. The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board adopted the plan on October 11, 2017.

Provide for Multi-age Facilities

Adults and children play sports at a high rate. Outdoor sports ranks Number 7 for adults and Number 10 for children under 18 when compared to other recreation categories. Overall, almost 2.5 million people play sports in Washington State. Athletic facilities that serve adults and children, rather than facilities designed only for children, will better meet the needs of a variety of age classes.

About 57 percent of children under 18 are involved in an outdoor sport.[1] The level of participation is slightly higher than the most recent national study of children’s outdoor activities, which found almost 50 percent of children participate in team sports and 40 percent in individual sports such as golf and tennis.<[2]

Forty-eight percent of adults also play sports. Interestingly, adults who have children are more likely to play sports themselves.  Forty percent of adults without children participate in outdoor sports compared to 63 percent of adults with children. The most popular adult sports are golf, basketball, and ping pong.[3]

Percent of Adult Participation of Outdoor Sports

Activity Percent
Overall 48%
Golf 17%
Basketball 11%
Mini-golf 11%
Ping pong or table tennis 11%
Soccer 9%
Baseball 7%
Football 7%
Tennis 7%
Volleyball 7%
Softball 6%
Disc golf 5%
Kickball 3%
Multi-sport race 3%
Paintball 3%
Dodgeball 2%
Foot golf 2%
Pickleball 2%
Ultimate Frisbee 2%
Lacrosse 1%
Rugby 0%
Support a Variety of Athletic Facilities

As indicated in the previous recommendation, children and adults participate in a variety of outdoor sports. Athletic facilities built to accommodate multiple types of sports will meet the changing interests of the population and maximize the use of facilities. For example, design basketball courts for full court and half-court tournaments as well as informal play. Build athletic fields to accommodate multiple sports such as football, soccer, and lacrosse. In addition, new or renovated athletic facilities should accommodate people with disabilities by providing accessible routes of travel up to the area of play and for spectators.


The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe near Port Angeles recently renovated its park to accommodate a variety of outdoor sports

Maintain and Improve Mapped Inventory of Athletic Facilities

The Recreation and Conservation Office  will maintain and improve a mapped inventory of  athletic facilities as part of the Mapped Inventory in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan. Users can locate athletic facilities and identify gaps in the recreation and conservation system. During the next 5 years, the office will work to expand athletic fields included in the statewide inventory. Maintaining a mapped inventory will aid with regional planning and identification of locations where there are gaps.

Assess Facilities Usage

Recreation providers cite the need for more facilities to meet demand. However, it is unclear what types of facilities are most needed based on the current inventory and users. A study to assess how facilities are used and whom they are serving will help answer these questions. For example, do sports leagues, schools or the public primarily use existing facilities? Are sports leagues public or privately run? Are facilities available for children, adults, or both? When are fields available for the public to use for casual play?

The purpose of the assessment would be to identify the availability of athletic facilities for the types of activities that people are interested in doing. An example of a facility usage study was recently conducted by the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma and Tacoma Public Schools. The report, called Joint Agency Athletic Field Study, is a good example of regional collaboration to assess the demand for athletic facilities. See Metro Parks Tacoma’s Web site to access the study.

Support Regional Planning and Coordination

Sports contributed $5.9 billion (14 percent) of the outdoor recreation economy at in 2012.[4] Since 1966, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board has invested more than $25 million in outdoor athletic fields, sports facilities, and courts. The significant level of investment and the potential return on that investment speaks to the need to coordinate at a regional scale on where to locate them and how to develop and manage them cooperatively.

Public and private facility managers, schools, and advocates need to assess demand for athletic fields on a regional basis to maximize investments and avoid competition among communities.

[1] Jostad, Schultz, Chase, “State of Washington 2017 Assessment of Outdoor Recreation Demand Report” 2017.

[2] Larson, Lincoln, Green, Cordell, “Children’s time outdoors: results and implications of the national kids survey” 2011.

[3] Jostad, Schultz, Chase, “State of Washington 2017 Assessment of Outdoor Recreation Demand Report” 2017.

[4] Earth Economics, “Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State” 2017.

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