Find a printable version here
Feature Article - September 2005

Equip it Right

The right equipment and fixtures can make your sports facility a winner

By Elisa Kronish


Filling a sports facility with the proper components can seem a daunting task, no matter what the size of your space. Mike Gallups had 150,000 square feet to equip. General manager of the huge, and hugely successful, American Sports Centers in Anaheim, Calif., one of the largest indoor sports centers in the country, Gallups outfitted this former warehouse to hold 22 volleyball courts that can be converted to 16 basketball courts. That's a lot of volleyball standards, a lot of basketball systems, a lot of bleachers and a lot of money—and Gallups wasn't skimping.

"The equipment is really first-rate," Gallups says. The investment in high-quality equipment has paid off. "When people walk in here, they're in awe."

What kind of investment can you devote to your facility equipment? Whether you've got a generous budget or limited one, whether you're a brand-new, nothing-in-it-yet space or just updating outdated equipment, here are some factors to consider so you can score some of that awe.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PLAYERS

First, you need to ask yourself, "Who's the end user?"

Your answer should help determine what type of equipment you truly need. You may think that top-of-the-line of everything is always best, but it might not make sense for you to spend the extra money if the quality is wasted on your players. For example, if your facility attracts intramural teams, summer leagues and pick-up games, then you probably can ratchet it down a notch from the top. If you've got professional clubs or collegiate teams using your facility, then by all means, go with the gold standard; they probably won't accept anything less.

"They compete with each other at the highest levels," says Charles F. Jennings, owner of Charles F. Jennings Architects in Oakland, Calif. "If there's a piece of equipment that can make a difference to their performance, [facility owners] are willing to invest in it."

If you've hired a consulting firm to advise your equipment purchases, be sure the representatives include you in the decision-making process—and be sure you join the discussion when they ask you; it's an opportunity to really spell out your needs and expectations. Also, if possible, involve your coaches and program directors since they are the ones on the front lines, literally.

"It's a team effort," says Don Paige, president of Paige Design Group, a firm based in Bahama, N.C., which specializes in track and field design. "I go through each track and field sport, and we talk about what the coaches like and don't like."