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Guest Column - January 2008

Flexibility Up Front

Design Corner

By Mike Williams


R
eflecting on the time in the late 1990s when the Park Center in Glenview, Ill., was being designed to serve as a community gathering and recreation facility for a range of community members with varying interests and needs, Glenview Park District Superintendent of Leisure Services Bob Quill said, "We hadn't even heard of Pilates then."

This comment sums up the difficulty in predicting trends in recreational programs, hence, the challenge in designing a facility with spaces expected to serve changing populations over an extensive period of time. Athletic and recreational activities come into vogue, and often are later dropped because interest in them has evaporated or because something else with more cachet has arrived on the scene. Many park agency recreation superintendents have likely witnessed a progression of popular activities emerge and then fade from demand, presenting their facility managers with considerable challenges in reconfiguring activity spaces to accommodate changes in space usage.

At Glenview's Park Center, for example, a space within the fitness center was "re-purposed" to accommodate spinning when that activity began to grow in popularity. Additionally, the center's lobby area was spacious enough to house a café, which expanded the range of amenities available to patrons.

New needs identified

Some 30 miles away at the Centre of Elgin in Elgin, Ill., Wayne Carlstedt, CPRP, oversees a vast operation that, in the five years since it opened its doors to serve a diverse community with evolving recreation and fitness needs, has been subject to programming changes.

When the state-of-the-art community and recreation facility was designed, the idea of placing a dedicated teen center among the mix of community gathering and recreation spaces was a priority. However, after gauging use of this facility originally planned for youngsters in the community, the demands observed varied from what was anticipated, though teens take advantage of other facility spaces.

At the same time, expectations were not being realized for participation in the complex's fitness center by one community demographic: mature women who were interested in fitness opportunities but shied away from working out in a co-ed environment.

To respond to this market demand, the decision was made to convert the teen center into a dedicated workout area for women seeking a fitness experience in a more private setting. Thus was born "Centrecise" at the Centre of Elgin, a popular attraction among the population it targets.