Feature Article - January 2010
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Extended Access

Is an Enclosure the Right Option to Add Seasons to Your Facility?

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Additional Events: Your enclosed space may also be a potential destination for concerts and special events in the area. The McDermont Field House offers about three acres of indoor entertainment space, even though it's based in the relatively small city of Lindsay, Calif. (population 11,000). "We're a regional sports and entertainment destination," explained Brad Albert, director of the Field House. "We have concerts and dances, and we're adding pro boxing in February. We host car shows—a little of everything. Monday through Friday, locals use [the Field House], and weekends are special events. We try to do some unique things."

Additional Memberships: In addition to more activities for your patrons, the more your venue is available, the greater the membership draw it offers. "[We] can sell year-round memberships because we have an option for winter," said Pfeil about the Ebensburg Tennis Center. "We have a large membership base because of that, which keeps us up and running and covers expenses. Others are shutting down in October or November and don't have the income we do for the next four months."

Additional In-Season Options: Enclosing your pool or playground is not just about extending the season. It's also about creating options for patrons during your busiest times. "The [enclosed] facility does add an extra something for our summertime users, too," said Lowe about the Lava Hot Springs aquatic center. "Some like the shade and the indoor toys that are not available at the outside facility. It always amazes me how many people are inside that pool on nice days."


Very soon there will be yet another enclosure option on the sports and leisure landscape. On their way from the UK, Inflatable Sports Enclosures, designed by Lewis G. Gopsill, are intended as an improvement over the standard air dome, which is fastened over an existing court or field or pool, and then held aloft by a constant stream of pressurized air, supplied by pumps and fans.

For about the same price as an air dome (also known as a "bubble"), these inflatable structures have a modular support system, so no pumps are needed, which keeps things quieter. Gopsill also has designed an inflatable ETFE membrane that allows in natural light and has a potential lifespan much longer than your average bubble. Once designed and brought to the intended location, these structures will take about four hours to put up, and perhaps two hours to take down. However, Gopsill noted, they are intended to be left in place for the season or even on a permanent basis.

Any sport that has a court no more than 20 meters wide can be played inside an inflatable enclosure, Gopsill said. To provide unlimited length, simply use several enclosures connected together. Volleyball, soccer, basketball, hockey, swimming—and even horse shows and concerts—can take place quite successfully inside an inflatable enclosure, he said.