Feature Article - November 2004
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Sports Facility Equipment

Outfitting indoor and outdoor athletic spaces

By Elisa Kronish


A strategic financial plan is key to getting the best equipment for your money. Make a wish list of all the equipment you'd like to see in your facility, pairing each item with ballpark-cost figures.

"Make sure you have everything adequately covered," Ballard says. Although this task can seem daunting, it's better to take all this into account before you start spending money. In some cases, you might only have money available within a specified fiscal period, so it's in your best interest to budget and spend it sooner than later.

"The biggest problem we see is people who wait too long to buy the equipment," Ballard says.

Another important thing to consider is that if you're renovating or building a new facility, the construction may incorporate some fixed equipment costs like permanent bleachers, volleyball sleeves or wall-mounted basketball goals. But it might not.

"Figure out what's included in your construction budget and what's your responsibility," Ballard says.

Whether your construction costs cover some equipment items or you're purchasing everything separately, you're likely going to have budget limitations, and experts generally advise spending to that limit.

"Quality over time is remembered, and price is forgotten," says Charles F. Jennings, owner of Charles F. Jennings Architects in Oakland, Calif. "Prioritize quality above cost."

Look for equipment that is well-made and durable.

"I'm a big believer in value," Paige says. "You might pay more, but the equipment will likely be safer and last longer."

If you cringe at a high price, remember that the break-even cost and life cycle will both probably be better than paying less upfront.

Considering quality, Jennings says facility managers still should bear in mind the expectations of your end users. An intramural league may be thrilled with the mid-range item, while a professional or collegiate team may balk at anything but the best.

"Professional sports organizations have a certain motivation because they compete with teams at the highest level," Jennings says. "If there's a piece of equipment that can make a difference to their team's performance, they're willing to invest in it."

Ballard reminds people not to get hung up on looks, either.

"On the list of things to worry about, aesthetics should be pretty low actually," he says. "The equipment should have appeal but don't give up functionality."

When it comes to the good equipment, performance should be topping the list.

Once the purchasing decisions are made, Ballard also suggests creating a depreciation schedule that allows you to budget for future repair and replacement costs.

"Stagger the purchases, so you're not facing a huge bill in one year," he adds.

Six Questions Before You Buy

Ken Ballard, principal with Ballard*King and Associates, a facility planning consultant firm in Denver, has worked with more than 150 recreational facilities around the country and offers some basic questions to ask before purchasing any equipment:

  1. Is it equipment that can withstand the use and abuse of the players at your facility?
  2. Has this piece of equipment been successful in a setting like yours?
  3. Where can you get parts—are they locally available?
  4. What is the warranty?
  5. Who can you talk to as a referral about the equipment, especially for bigger ticket items?
  6. What are the maintenance requirements?