Feature Article - November 2006
Find a printable version here

Magnificently Multipurpose

Managing all-around facilities

By Kelli Anderson

Screen play

These days, video and TV displays are a must-have for most multipurpose spaces where aerobics, Spinning, yoga, meetings, seminars and an almost endless list of possibilities make use of the magic screen. Size and position can include entire walls with a screen dropping from the ceiling or simple mounted monitors. For smaller spaces where instructors or classes will need frequent use of videos, monitors are often a permanent mounted fixture.

Retractable screens, whether coming down from the ceiling or up from the floor, are a common solution for larger gymnasium spaces where permanent display is not an option. Providing live-feed video to project multiple images of speakers during a conference is yet another popular screen use.


The final challenge after a multipurpose space has been planned, designed and built is scheduling the multiple uses that will take place there. For large recreation facilities, like the Carleton College Recreation Center, having good scheduling software makes a difficult juggling task much easier.

"We have very good scheduling software, which takes our activity spaces and divides them into immediate and long-term schedules of practices and classes and blocks them in place," Rivers said. "Then intramurals and recreational users are blocked in after that."

Rivers stressed the importance of augmenting software with meetings involving coaches and instructors to define uses of multipurpose spaces and to work out the conflicts of time and priorities.

Once scheduling is ironed out, there is still the issue of oversight—who is going to make sure setup and take-down are taken care of? Having someone in charge of those functions, whether doing it themselves or delegating it to ensure users get and then return the equipment they need, is essential to avoid embarrassing omissions during a conference or annoying messes for the next users of a space.

In cases where multipurpose spaces are scheduled by outside groups for events like conferences or competitions, learning what equipment and changes are needed for the space to perform well is an important part of the communication process. Likewise, being able to communicate what is available so that all parties are aware of all the possibilities also is key.

"You have to ask a lot of questions," Jackman said. "It's important to know what groups think they'll really need."

The beauty of a multipurpose space done well is that it is flexible. It can adapt to the changing recreational winds to be action-packed Spinning one minute and peaceful Pilates the next. It can accommodate new groups and adapt to their recreational needs. If done well, a multipurpose space will be constantly scheduled from open to close. Being all things to all people in the recreation world is no easy task, but when done right it conserves space, saves money and just makes sense.