Feature Article - October 2009
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Under Cover

Shelters & Shade Structures

By Dawn Klingensmith

Profit Potentials

By now, it should be obvious that shade structures aren't just window dressing. But in addition to UV protection and aesthetic appeal, they offer a range of other benefits, not the least of which is the possibility of increasing or generating revenue.

Ample shade may increase visitation and stay time, and at sports venues, it may provide an edge over other facilities in drawing tournaments. It can extend the life of playground equipment by protecting it from the elements, and prevent equipment from getting too hot. There have been cases of children suffering serious burns from playground equipment and surfacing that is exposed to the sun, adding urgency to a national push for schools to cover outdoor play areas. (See sidebar, "Recess from the Sun," on page 22)

At aquatics facilities, cabanas can be rented out. And parks and recreation facilities of allrent ou t larger shelters and shade structures for picnics, parties and other private functions.

Shade structures absolutely are a means of generating more revenue for Lewisville's aquatics center, Pickett said, because people are eager to reserve them for special occasions. "This has been a very popular feature that we previously could not offer," he explained. "We have two structures dedicated for birthday party rentals, and they stay booked."

Where appropriate, facilities may consider corporate sponsorships for fabric shade structures, as the cloth shades can serve as ad space for logos and branding, and can be switched out if and when the sponsorship ends.

An underappreciated benefit of shade is relief from eye strain. Walking around the North Carolina Zoo grounds, "the surface concrete is almost white," Such said. "If you're there on a bright sunny day, after a while, your eyes are just dead tired because of the glare off the concrete. Shade structures help subdue that."

While sun worship might not be a thing of the past, facilities are finding that shelters and shade structures are the shrines to which patrons inevitably flock. "Wherever you have a shade structure," Such said, "people are sure to congregate."

Built Shade Trends
  • Recognizing the need for shade structures at splash pads and skate parks, and retrofitting accordingly.
  • Incorporating shade structures at the onset of new construction proposals.
  • Luxury camping, or "glamping," giving rise to the popularity of tricked-out yurts, with bathtubs and mini bars.
  • Incorporating photovoltaic cells into shade structures, so as to double as lighted sculpture at night.