Supplement Feature - July 2009
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Smart Start

What You Need to Know About Indoor Sports Design

By Kelli Anderson

Be Flexible

Having to do so much more than just design for athletics becomes a particular challenge at a time when facility managers in a tightening economy are asked to do even more with less. Enter the continuing trend of multipurpose design.

With recreational spaces increasingly having to multitask to save money and space, one design solution is portable equipment. Reported sales of portable sports equipment are on the rise from basketball hoops and netting to seating and scoreboards. If it's moveable and durable, it's finding its way into multitasking spaces.

In addition to equipping facilities with multipurpose elements, facilities also need to build with an eye for the future.

"We are seeing interiors be as adaptable and flexible as possible so materials have to be adaptable too," said Mike Pratl, AIA, director of Jacobs Facilities in St. Louis. "For example, a space that may not turn out to be well used—like a youth recreation space—will often need a whole new reconfiguration."

For the hard-to-persuade, Pratl recommends touring other facilities to see how they started and how they have ended up in an effort to help clients understand how much programming spaces might change over time.

"The thing we stress is event management," Kocher said about helping clients understand the need to think outside the batter's box. "We try to sit them down and say, 'Yeah, this looks great but how are you going to run this special event—or 10 other potential ones?' We do our best to understand how the space is going to be used for all functions and to determine what you have to do to change that design."

Giving a high-profile example, Kocher said that when Michelle Obama recently came to speak at one sports facility during the presidential campaign, it changed the whole set of rules at the sports venue. Like Pratl, he recommends visiting other facilities and asking events staff how functions have changed to help anticipate needs from lighting to storage and technology.

"These facilities are not used just for sports anymore," Kocher concluded. "Even a soccer facility that says, 'We're never going to hold a dance or a concert' may have the next set of directors do just that."

One way to accommodate those changes is changing the way we think about interior construction. Pratl recommends a solution that is both affordable and aesthetic. By designing interiors with a lighter drywall and steel frame, walls can be changed out to suit a facility's ever-evolving functions. The best news is that the cost for the more pleasing finish is the same as the old sports-facility standard—concrete block.