Feature Article - July 2012
Find a printable version here

Beyond Fitness

The Evolution of Multipurpose Facility Design

By Brian Summerfield


For adults, many multipurpose centers offer off-site trips for activities such as long-distance running, crossfit training, camping, kayaking and hiking.

For adults, many multipurpose centers offer off-site trips for activities such as long-distance running, crossfit training, camping, kayaking and hiking. And as many members don't have the equipment for some of these activities, the facility has to supply them. That can create a need for a great deal of storage space, McKenna said.

Additionally, some indoor activities can be moved outside when the weather is nice. Some facilities now provide creatively designed outdoor venues for activities that traditionally happen in a studio, such as yoga and tai chi. This has the added benefit of advertising the services to people who pass by the facility, Sherrard said.

The inverse of this trend is that an effort is being made to bring the outdoors "inside." This is done by installing lighting and ventilation systems that give interior spaces a more outside feel. For instance, Sherrard has worked on facilities that let hot air rise and draw in cool air lower down without the aid of mechanical systems. "We want to give a connection to the outside, not only through lighting and windows, but also through the air that's brought in," he explained. "We're trying to do more natural ventilation where the buildings 'breathe' by themselves."

Another important way in which these facilities are changing is in the expansion and enhancement of both indoor and outdoor aquatic activities. Blackburn points to a project his company is working on now in Olathe, Kan., a large suburb of Kansas City, as an example of what's in store.


"Every few years, a municipality comes along and says, 'We want to do something that's never been done before,'" he said. "This is one of those clients that says, 'We want to incorporate the latest thinking about recreation into this project.' For instance, in the aquatic center, they're looking for something for everyone, from the 2-year-old toddler to the 90-year-old senior."

A couple of unique offerings this new facility will feature are a rock wall with ropes that also has a diving perch at the top, and a zip line that allows people to glide down into the pool. Blackburn said this is an example of a burgeoning "watertainment" trend, and he expects more facilities to adopt features in their aquatic areas that are similar to what you might find in resort areas such as Pigeon Forge, Tenn., Branson, Mo., or the Wisconsin Dells.