Feature Article - September 2006
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Special Report:
Recreation Managementís First Annual State of the Industry Report

Our First Annual Recreation Forecast

Recognizing a Facility's Many Roles

Einstein searched during his lifetime to develop a Universal Theory that would tie the many strands of physics together into one theory enabling us to understand the entire universe. As we look to the future of the sports and recreation facility, there is a definite need for the design professional to understand and explain the many roles that such a facility is called upon to perform. The fulfillment of this need would enable us to set goals and benchmarks for the elusive "perfect" facility of the future-a facility that acknowledges the broader roles it can and should be playing in its community. In a world of diversity, there can be a physical personification of those universal values that have the ability to enrich the community, the family and the individual, while transcending race, color or creed.

The potential for future facilities to create positive influences in their respective communities are numerous. Although it would require an architectural Einstein to draw all of these into one facility, these are just a few of the dynamics to be considered in its design:

Health and Wellness


Leisure, Relaxation and Socialization


Economic Development



Retention of the Natural Environment

Social Policy Advocate

Youth Policies

Community Building

Community Values

Immigrant Integration

Democracy and Politics

J. Terry Barkley, MAIBC, MAAA, AIA
Vice President, Cannon Design


Going forward, I can see everyone focusing on integration.

The key to growth obviously always has been increasing the number of people that use our facilities. How well we integrate our products, programs and delivery systems into the community, and how well we can integrate the diverse components with each other, ultimately will affect the success of this growth.

We have been touting the overall impact of the architectural and customer service experience for the members and users of our facilities. The lasting impression that our facilities deliver is still a highly important component in our design. However, integrating separate components such as the medical model (i.e. hospitals, physical therapists and doctors) into wellness and fitness facilities will go far in reaching more people. People that are ill, recovering from an illness or in need of health support are being introduced to the benefits of wellness activities. The word and impact will spread. The challenge is whether the medical industry can learn from fitness in terms of sales, experience and fun. Likewise, can fitness learn from hospitals the importance of measuring success-the result-oriented perspective so prevalent in the medical culture? The product that integrates these two dynamic industries in an appropriate way will be a very powerful force. The integration of facilities aimed at specific groups such as kid's fitness, women-only, upcoming men-only fitness clubs, seniors, etc., into the population also will be a strong force. We already have seen the effects of the women-only niche groups. There is a lot of room for growth in other specialty service area. Kid's fitness, men-only, sports conditioning, etc., has just started to be tapped. More important is how these diverse components are interlinked with each other and presented to the general population. Specific niche markets allow us to penetrate deeper into the general population. As architects, we are very interested in exploring how the aesthetics and experience of these programs can be tailored to fit with current models, especially in super-clubs where everything is under one roof.

Consequently, high-end fitness and wellness facilities, as well as low-end gyms, are capturing specific demographic groups and enticing more members to join.

Soon, the integration of other business components will come into play. Will insurance companies, employers, tax strategies, etc. adjust to support the wellness movement in our culture? Without the support of these important financial factors our growth will have limits.

Lastly, how can the integration of green architecture into our facilities help us grow? It is ironic that fitness and wellness facilities have one of the lowest ratios of green building. We should promote healthy building as well as healthy bodies. The real savings in reduction of dependency on fossil energy as well as the emotional, physical and marketing benefits of a green building cannot be ignored. A commitment to healthy, energy-efficient, environmentally sensitive buildings will reinforce our dedication to the health and well-being of our patrons.

Rudy Fabiano, AIA
Fabiano Designs