Feature Article - June 2011
Find a printable version here

Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities

By Emily Tipping

Building Plans

Many have pointed to an arms race of sorts in recent years, as higher education facilities aimed to outdo one another by building new recreational sports facilities to meet the needs of existing students and boost recruitment for potential students.

In fact, according to an article by Kent Blumenthal of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) for Planning for Higher Education, a 2008 NIRSA survey showed that almost $4 billion in campus recreational sports facility construction was either already under way or was planned at 174 colleges and universities between 2008 and 2013. Of these projects, 96 were to be new construction, 62 would be additions, and 62 would be renovations. The average project cost at that time was around $20.8 million.

Whether the economic downturn led to a slowdown in these plans or not remains to be seen, but according to this year's Industry Report survey, college respondents were slightly more likely to indicate they had no construction plans over the next three years. Last year, 43.9 percent reported they had no plans, while this year 46.4 percent have no plans. That said, more than half are planning facility construction, with 22 percent reporting they will build new, 24.5 percent planning to add to their existing facilities, and 35.9 percent planning renovations. (See Figure 46.)

The average amount college respondents are planning to spend on their facility construction was $7,681,000, 94.9 percent more than the average for all respondents.

The top features currently included in college and university respondents' facilities include: locker rooms, fitness centers, indoor sports courts (i.e., basketball courts, volleyball courts and more), exercise studio rooms (for aerobics, yoga, etc.), natural turf sports fields (for football, soccer, baseball, etc.), bleachers sand seating, classrooms and meeting rooms, outdoor sports courts (for basketball, tennis, etc.), indoor aquatic facilities, and indoor running tracks.

While 41.5 percent of all respondents reported that they had plans to add more features to their facilities over the next three years, just a third (33 percent) of college respondents said they had plans to do so. Their most commonly planned additions included:

  1. Synthetic turf sports fields (30.9 percent of those who plan to make additions)
  2. Fitness center (26.4 percent)
  3. Climbing wall (25.5 percent)
  4. Indoor running track (25.5 percent)
  5. Exercise studio rooms (24.5 percent)
  6. Classrooms and meeting rooms (21.8 percent)
  7. Natural turf fields (21.8 percent)
  8. Concessions (20.9 percent)
  9. Locker rooms (20.9 percent)
  10. Indoor sports courts (20 percent)