Feature Article - July 2011
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Design For All Times

Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Dawn Klingensmith


Attention to Detail

One deficiency that indoor sports and recreation facilities often end up addressing in renovations is lack of storage space. Even newly constructed facilities often find before too long that their storage space is insufficient. Having one large storage room is not the answer; rather, it is best to have a dedicated space that provides easier access to balls, carts and smaller equipment that is frequently used. As Sims pointed out last year on SchoolDesigner.com, if community groups use the gym as well, there should be separate storage specifically for their use: "This storage room should even be keyed separately so they only have access to their storage room and not the other ones."

The smallest details can make the difference between user-friendly sport facility design and an ongoing "maintenance nightmare," Warner said. Seemingly superficial details like the placement of fire-protection system components and security cameras are important. When poorly situated and not properly protected, these can be tampered with by "kids on adrenaline highs" or broken by errant balls, Warner said.

"Little details end up being maintenance hassles and nightmares which schools then have to address in all kinds of makeshift ways like borrowing components from a shopping cart to protect a clock on the wall. We are constantly seeing these types of things in new buildings," Warner said.

"The details are a critical part of the gym design," Sims agreed. "Don't design exit doors below the main backstop so that your star basketball player does a lay-up and ends up in the lobby. Don't forget to add wall pads to increase safety. Add drinking fountains in the lobby so that, if they should break, they do not overflow onto the gymnasium's wood floor. Locate the gym so there is direct access to playgrounds and playfields."

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Eighty years have passed since Elmer Mitchell helped usher into existence a sports facility designed to combine "exercise with sociability." Today, his vision shapes the design of sports and recreation facilities the world over. Environmental and economic concerns, safety and compliance issues, and economic realities also affect sport facility design, including renovations and retrofits. The trend is toward bigger facilities with a smaller carbon footprint. And gone are the days of boxy, boring sports facilities: Today's buildings are architectural standouts as well as team players that work well with the natural and built environment that surrounds them.