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

You've got your athletic space, and it's looking great, but it's just a little empty. So, how do you fill it? You're going to need the right equipment, everything from loose items like balls and bases to fixed elements like in-ground basketball goals, lockers and outfield fencing.

Your first strategic play is to determine exactly who will be using your facility. Consider the age range and competition level. Are you a college recreational facility that hosts varsity competition or simply intramural sports? Are you a municipal park that will be open to a wide variety of youth leagues, camp groups and the general public? Knowing your potential players and programs will help you make the best decisions for the type of equipment that's right for you.

Like an athlete who limbers up before a match, you also will benefit from spending some time preparing to meet with contractors, designers and equipment sales associates.

"You really need to do your homework," says Ken Ballard, principal with Ballard*King and Associates, a facility planning consultant firm in Denver. Your preparation should cover the types of items you're looking for as well as an estimated budget.

Next order of business should be creating that winning team of professionals. Curt Nichols, principal at Carlile Macy, a design firm in Santa Rosa, Calif., doesn't just include athletic directors and facility managers in his meetings, he relies on them for help to do his job.

"The athletic director and various coaches of a high school, for instance, are the ones that will be using the space," Nichols says. Because such officials are familiar with the facility and what they want, Nichols values their input.

"I view my client as the whole department," agrees Don Paige, president of Paige Design Group, a firm based in Bahama, N.C., which specializes in track-and-field design. "I go through each track-and-field sport, and we talk about what the coaches like and don't like," Paige explains. "It's a team effort."

Remember, too, that you make the final decisions. You may be hiring outside sources to provide their expertise and products, but in the end, you want to get what you want and not what they want.

"The user should be the one to define what they want to see," Ballard stresses. Make sure you're included in meetings with professionals who are there to help guide you, educate you and set up your facility for success.