Availability of School Physical Activity Facilities to the Public in Four U.S. Communities

Kelly R. Evenson, Aileen P. McGinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose. This study documents the public availability of school physical activity facilities reasons facilities were not made available to the public, and the barriers and benefits associated with having facilities available. Design. Cross-sectional. Setting. All schools located in four geographic locations (Washington County, Maryland; northwest suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota; Jackson, Mississippi; and Forsyth County, North Carolina). Subjects. The survey was completed by 289 school representatives for a response rate of 82.3% (289/351 schools). For the nonrespondents, 61 of 62 schools were visited to obtain information on outdoor facilities. Measures. Information on indoor and outdoor physical activity facilities available to the public was collected for all schools (public, private, and colleges) using a telephone survey. Site visits were made to schools that did not participate in the survey to collect information on outdoor facilities only. Results. The schools in the four geographic areas owned a wide range and number of physical activity facilities for their students. For the schools, 27% had no indoor facilities and 11% had no outdoor facilities. Private schools and colleges were less likely to have indoor or outdoor facilities compared to public schools. Outdoor facilities were available more often to the public than indoor facilities overall, across sites, and by school type (public, private, college). Among the 313 schools with outdoor facilities, 240 (77%) allowed at least some public use, and among the 210 schools with indoor facilities, 134 (64%) allowed at least some public use. Some reasons that facilities were not made available included: for student use only, supervision and personnel requirements, safety concerns, insurance, liability, and a private or church-owned status. The most common benefits of allowing the public to use the facilities included providing a space to keep youth active and good publicity for the school. Conclusion. These findings suggest that safety, insurance, and liability concerns are barriers that need to be addressed with schools before indoor and outdoor facilities can be made available to the public. Furthermore, emphasizing the benefits that we found, such as providing a space to keep youth active and good publicity for the school, would also be important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Promotion
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Environment
  • Exercise
  • Leisure Activities
  • Preventive Medicine and Public Health
  • Public Facilities
  • Public Policy
  • Schools

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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