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Guest Column - September 2004

Planning a Winning Facility

Inline Hockey & Multipurpose Facilities

By Heather Landreville


It is a familiar situation for many. The old facility is rundown, demand for space is increasing and/or programming needs have changed. Clearly the time has come for a new hockey, soccer or multipurpose facility. What isn't clear to many is the first step. Truly successful facilities begin before design, even before budgeting and fund-raising. It sounds elementary, but the most important phase in the success of a recreation facility begins with planning.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-Benjamin Franklin

Whether a facility is public or private, embracing the planning phase will provide a smooth transition into design and budgeting and, in the end, provide a better return on investment. Initial planning should cover a wide range of topics including programming, review of existing facilities/equipment, maintenance and budget. Researching these areas will lead to a clear path for choosing the right products and design for your needs.

Programming

A logical place to start is to define the intended programming for the facility. The programming should drive the design and the products that go into it, not vice versa. The most common mistake is to design a facility around a single sport. While some facilities are able to support full usage by one sport, such as soccer or inline hockey, the overwhelming majority of facilities are planned for multipurpose use. Building around core sports and filling in with other activities increases the ability to manage changing programming trends and can extend the life of a facility.

One key to success for many facilities is using every available programming minute of the day. How will the facility be used from open to close?

Here are some initial questions to bring information to the programming discussion:

  • Are there other facilities in the area? Where are they and what are they like? What programming do they provide? How much do they charge?
  • What programs are currently running? Will you be able to build on existing programs? Will you need to launch new programs? Are you able fill in a two-year programming calendar or are there holes?
  • How will you market the programs? How will you staff the programs? Have you considered the financial efficiencies of a dual rink facility?
  • Have you considered incorporating youth activities/camps into the facility? Have you considered any other activities: home-school children, meetings, shows, to name a few?
Review of existing facilities

Once you understand your programming a little better, the next step is to review your existing facilities and equipment. Even when building a new facility, it is important to determine what is available to use in conjunction with the new facility. For example, is there an existing concrete slab suitable for inline hockey play? Is there existing, underutilized space in an indoor gymnasium? Is the old facility suitable for a retrofit, which updates only those items that need it and makes use of other items that still have years of life left?

Answers to these questions can help you define the equipment or existing facility elements you will need to incorporate into the project, as well as those materials you will need to purchase.