You've Come a Long Way!
In my 15 years of covering the design of parks, recreation, sports, fitness and aquatic facilities here in these pages, I've seen some impressive innovations. As the spotlight of popular opinion shines on everything from reducing our negative impact on the environment to reaching out to those who are excluded to improving our chances at better health, those trends are then reflected in our expectations of the places we live, work, move and play.
Innovations and advances have been obvious in a number of areas. We've seen facilities grow more eco-friendly with designers focusing on ways to reduce waste, use fewer resources and operate much more efficiently—a trend that not only helps lessen the facility's impact on the planet, but also, often, helps improve the bottom line. We've seen designers move well beyond accessibility to aim for true inclusiveness, where those with disabilities both physical and developmental can interact and play alongside peers of all ages and abilities. We've seen a greater focus on the impact facilities have on our health, with attention given to improving air quality, letting in a little more mood-boosting sunlight and providing a greater variety of ways to encourage healthy activity. And we've watched as the end-user experience has been upgraded again and again.
You've probably seen all of these developments in action, and even more that I've missed here.
It leads one to ponder… What kinds of new developments will occur in the next 15 years?
I'd imagine we'll see continuing innovations and progress in all of the areas already mentioned. As we act together as a society to lower our carbon emissions and reduce our environmental footprint, new ideas will emerge and the eco-friendly facilities of today will be outstripped by the eco-friendlier facilities of tomorrow. As we grow our understanding of how inclusion's positive impact affects people of all abilities, we'll expand our ideas of how to create even more inclusion. The past year's ultra-focus on the health impacts of our surroundings will, possibly, lead to designs and plans that make it even easier to protect people from the spread of disease, while giving them ever more access to healthy activity and social interaction. And as a result, the end-user experience will grow ever more impactful.
I'm willing to bet that increased cultural attention to other vital issues will also lead to new ideas and developments in the way we plan and design recreation, sports and fitness facilities. In particular, I suspect that we'll be paying a lot more attention to social equity and outreach to the underserved.
What trends have you seen over the past decade-plus? What do you see on the horizon? Let's embrace our ability to change our minds and make even more progress.