Feature Article - October 2006
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Fixtures Fixation

What to consider when outfitting sports facilities

By Daniela Bloch

Prior priorities

For the first step of smart outfitting, think goal-setting. Your main concerns are bound to differ from those of other facilities, depending on your specific layout or programming, but seek solace in both common sense as well as the advice of some experts in the field.

Think about what it is you want to make a main priority for your facility. Matt Colagiovanni, director of facilities and events at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., for example, focuses his efforts on scheduling and maintenance.

"Scheduling is an especially important priority in a shared facility," he says, "and it is definitely the hardest one. But you also have to keep the equipment up to date, perform general maintenance checks, make sure the equipment still works, that the lines are down for the courts, standards are good for volleyball, score tables are working, lights are lit, P.A. and sound systems are functioning, then do a scoreboard check, make sure the outdoor fields are lined, regroup all the goals that were used by summer camps on the fields. We do a lot of this at this time of the year [summer] right before sports are starting back at school."

Jack Ebel, director of athletics at Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky., boils it down to the basics.

"You need a good playing field surface, enough space on which to play the games you will be doing, lights are good, good fences, good structure," he says.

Also keep in mind sturdy surfaces, safe, practical and manageable equipment, and affordability.

Bottom line: Establish your own goals and set them for yourself before you get to work. There are numerous critical components to success but recognize which ones are of greatest relevance to you. Focusing on a few key issues is more organized and less overwhelming than multitasking 75 different ideas.

Looking good

As with anything, appearances are in and of themselves a priority, for a facility as much as for Miss Universe. Yet while beauty may be its own excuse for being (sorry Emerson), it is not enough to keep a facility on top.

"Our facility is very functional but aesthetically pleasing, too," Ebel says. "We are a multipurpose facility. For being visually pleasing, our architects drew all that up; we have plenty of open space, lots of windows, brick that adds to the look, that kind of thing."

Consider how best to make the best of the space you have. Windows, colors, landscaping and already existing unique surfaces or designs—such as the brick wall at Transylvania University—add a singular sensation to the recreation experience at your facility.

Details are key as well.

"We paint our storage units red, like our school colors, because it looks better," Rutger's Colagiovanni says. "It's better than having the standard, unattractive aluminum containers."

Once you've figured out how to maximize the beauty quota, remember that looking good is hard work. Make sure you have a competent maintenance team with trustworthy and knowledgeable collaborators.

"We have our own internal facility staff with our own electricians and mechanics that report directly to us," Colagiovanni adds.

Bottom line: Combine form with function for a good looking, practical place.