inPRACTICE / ATHLETIC FACILITIES: Building a New Standard in High School Athletic Facilities

Melissa Championship Center // Melissa, Texas

Today, the lines between high school, college and professional sports are more blurred than ever. Student athletes are now exposed to best-in-class sports facilities from a young age, allowing them to perform at higher levels. Now, with more schools focused on staying competitive, construction experts who understand the latest trends are incorporating safe and cost-effective procedures coupled with the latest technologies, building a new standard in high school athletic facilities. Given this new elevated standard for high school athletics, three key points are critical for schools and their design and construction teams to consider when developing an elite practice facility.

Prioritize Safety


Safety should always be the top priority in designing facilities, and one of the most important factors to consider is playing surfaces. During the construction of the Melissa Championship Center in Melissa, Texas, our team at Harrison, Walker and Harper (HWH) determined the need for additional safety on the facility's outdoor practice field due to extreme temperatures often experienced in states throughout the southern region.

With this in mind, our team utilized BrockFILL, a safe and eco-friendly wood particle infill for the Melissa Championship Center's outdoor turf field. The wood particle turf helps reduce artificial turf heat, a crucial element of creating a safe playing surface, particularly important during busy summer practice months in Texas. It also improves traction and provides greater cushioning upon impact, reducing the rate of contact and non-contact injuries. As an added bonus, it is also renewable, which is achieved through an 11-step conditioning process that includes growing, harvesting and replanting a species of southern pine trees.

Construction companies can also look to bolster the safety of players and enhance an athletic center's value to its users by forming partnerships with community healthcare providers. In the early stages of the Melissa Championship Center's construction, we partnered with Texas Health Resources, the largest health system in North Texas, to include a 5,200-square-foot injury rehabilitation clinic located inside the facility.

With physical and occupational therapies, the benefits of an injury rehabilitation clinic extend well beyond a single school. The clinic helps further players' safety on and off the field, provides appropriate injury recovery protocols and offers students who are aspiring health professionals the opportunity to shadow physical therapists and doctors as they treat injuries. As the only clinic of its kind in the area that also offers services to residents throughout the region, the clinic fosters a greater sense of community with everyone it serves.

Maximize Space

Innovative construction practices and new technologies can also help create a cost-effective and long-lasting sports center. As one example, our team combined a masonry load-bearing steel structure with an economical but still aesthetically pleasing pre-engineered metal building. With its 50-foot ceiling, one of the highest found in indoor athletic facilities, and its unique column-free design, the Melissa Championship Center is truly a multipurpose facility capable of hosting various sports and meets for athletes from around the state and beyond.

The Melissa Championship Center's innovative design allows for various events, including football, baseball, soccer, wrestling and dance, drill and band competitions using different nets, cages and platforms that descend from the high ceiling. An elevated platform serves as a film deck, observation platform and area for judges and officials during competitions, further contributing to the facility's versatility, a key element in creating today's top-tier sports complexes.

Versatility and maximizing space are also key to ensuring that a school is ready to meet the many needs of its athletes, coaches and visitors. Together with our architecture design partner, we understood the importance of serving today's athletes and coaches and the Melissa community of the future. Adding to the Center's multipurpose use, we included nine locker rooms, a weight room, a treatment area and training rooms, along with specially carved out spaces for theater classrooms, wrestling training and competitions, and VIP meeting and sports viewing.

Build for Tomorrow

While it's important to meet the needs of today, building for tomorrow can enhance a facility's durability and ensure it will stand the test of time. For example, while many practice centers use metal wall panels and vinyl back insulation, which typically last an average of seven years, we find materials like insulated wall panels and CMU block walls are proven to better withstand athletes' concentrated activity in heavy-use areas like weight and locker rooms.

Implementing the latest technology is also helpful for construction professionals looking to extend an athletic facility's life, which often produces long-term cost savings too. Tools like Wi-Fi-enhanced leak detectors that automatically shut off water and reduce the risk of flooding, state-of-the-art sound systems and energy-efficient heating and cooling systems all contribute to a best-in-class facility without significant investments of time and effort.

In the rapidly evolving high school sports environment, top-tier training facilities focused on safety, versatility and the latest technologies will continue to play a crucial role in promoting the highest level of competition and moving the industry forward. So long as our nation's passion for top-notch athletic competitions persists, the design and construction industries can lend their expertise to develop elite athletic facilities that will serve student athletes, their schools and their communities today and into the future. RM



Melissa Schools:
Harrison, Walker & Harper:



Cory Wood is a senior business development manager for Harrison, Walker & Harper, a leading construction management company with offices in Paris, Texas, and McKinney, Texas. Since joining the company back in 2010, Cory has worked on some of HWH's biggest and most innovative projects like the Melissa Championship Center, Choctaw Nation and North Lamar ISD.