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Feature Article - May 2015

Lean & Green

Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Dawn Klingensmith


In the education sector, "lean" and "green" are the dominant trends in sports facility design. On college campuses in particular, green design features are almost a given, although the degree of greenness varies greatly from one facility to another. The "lean" aspect includes everything from minimal water and energy usage to making the most of a skimpy budget. Likening these facilities to the student athletes who use them, it's all about getting the best performance out of what you have to work with.

In some fashion, the college and high school sports facilities featured here are lean, green and at the top of their game.

Green Thumbs Grow Squash

Perhaps it's fitting that the new Squash Center at Middlebury College in Vermont offers a view of the Green Mountains in the distance. That's because the facility itself is "green" in the eco-friendly sense of the word—so green, in fact, that it's LEED Platinum certified.

Sustainability and environmental context were important design influences for this project, according to a case study by Architecture Resources Cambridge (ARC), the firm that designed the 17,775-square-foot facility.

Funded by donors, the Squash Center provides a new home for the men's and women's squash programs. The facility now has nine international-size squash courts with ample seating to host major tournaments.

A light well was designed to suffuse the spectator area with natural light, minimizing the need for artificial lighting. Existing squash courts were re-used. But the greenest feature of all is the Squash Center's vegetative roof, which allows it to "integrate more seamlessly into the surrounding natural landscape" including the adjacent outdoor athletic fields, according to ARC. The live roof system consisting of plants and soil retains and filters rainfall and naturally cools the building for cost and energy savings.

Since opening in October 2013, the project has won awards and recognition including the highest LEED certification and an AIA Vermont Citation Award for Excellence in Architecture Design. But perhaps the best measure of the building's success is the growing interest in squash among students and faculty members since it opened.

Small Field Big Dreams

Thirty years ago, Georgia Southern University unveiled what became known as "the prettiest little stadium in America." The stadium had 14,400 seats plus four grass banks to accommodate up to 3,600 more spectators. It wasn't enough.

Likening these facilities to the student athletes who use them, it's all about getting the best performance out of what you have to work with.

"We knew we needed to grow. We knew where we needed to be," former Georgia Southern punter Terry Harvin told the local press. "Now how can we do that without losing sight of where we've been?"

The resulting stadium is both a tribute to the past and a forward-looking recruitment tool of sorts, as it provides a memorable game-day experience for kids.

Open in time for the 2014 home opener, the renovated stadium increases overall capacity to 25,000. The new videoboard boasts five times the square footage as the previous board. Although the project was an expansion—and a significant one at that—in at least one respect Georgia Southern thought small. Since Paulson Stadium opened in 1984, kids have slid down the hills and played football in the end zone on game days. The renovated stadium carries on that tradition with the new "Field of Dreams," a miniature turf football field for kids 12 and under where "future generations of Eagles can play a pickup game while watching our Eagles and dreaming about one day becoming an Eagle themselves," according to a university release.

When not overrun by children, the synthetic turf field is used by student athletes for workouts.