Feature Article - July 2010
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Try That on for Size

Small Communities Take On Big Recreation Amenities

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Pint-Sized Cities, Premier Parks!

Norwalk, Conn.: population approximately 83,000 (South Norwalk is a neighborhood within this town)
SoNo Field House: 53,000 square feet with turf fields for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, plus a climbing wall, challenge course and meeting/party rooms.

New Canaan, Conn.: population approximately 20,000
New Canaan YMCA: 40,000 square feet with a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and a multipurpose aerobics room, plus childcare and preschool facilities and general-use programming spaces.

Sioux Falls, S.D.: population approximately 157,000 within city limits (largest city in the state)
Sherman Park: 205 acres that includes a zoo and "traditional park land," plus a 50-acre, tournament-worthy, nine-field lighted softball complex with shaded stands and concessions.

Forney, Texas: population approximately 13,000 within city limits
Forney Community Park: 70 acres with a softball complex, soccer complex, family recreation area (including playground and splashpad), lighted trails, administrative buildings and wetlands preservation area.

Give Yourself a Facelift

Some of these ideas are on the extensive side, and if the current financial outlook in your neck of the woods is not about to support something quite so extravagant (whatever fabulous returns you might reap in the future), there are still ways you can spruce things up. Some simpler cosmetic changes can make your fitness offerings more up to date—and act as advertising, too.

"For a lot of people, face lifts are important," Panza said. "Just like an open floor plan for houses, [fitness clients] want more open space."

If your health club or fitness center currently is housed behind solid walls and closed doors, consider swapping for some open air and added glass. The latest designs are "now making viewing of what's happening inside just as important as what the people inside are looking at," explained Panza.

All of these extra things to look at not only make the space seem bigger to those working out, but being able to see what's happening inside can entice those outside to enter—or at least make them more aware of your facility's presence.

And even if you are attempting a larger project, don't forget the design details. Sioux Falls is a stickler for tournament regulations when it designs its fields, but the city also tended to some aesthetic elements that non-tournament-affiliated park users will appreciate.

"We really jazzed up the plaza area where you find information," Kearney said. "We've gone all out to make [the park] appealing."

And although Sioux Falls keeps the softball fields tournament-ready at all times—"we'll be called at the last minute if some other community cancels," Kearney explained—"we also want our home players and families to have a high-quality experience. There's lots of pride in the community about our top-notch complexes."