Feature Article - May 2015
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Lean & Green

Trends in Sports Facility Design

By Dawn Klingensmith

All That Glitters

Although the metaphor doesn't stand up to scrutiny, it's tempting to call Missouri State University's new recreation center a diamond in the rough. The facility's design actually was inspired by a geode, at least conceptually, and the result is a building that has cast-stone panels on the outside; a "crack" to make way for an outdoor pedestrian walkway; and "a beautiful, glistening" space that makes up the "fracture" and is composed of shiny materials, like a geode's crystal innards. Aluminum panels pick up the sky's varying colors throughout the day, and 4-foot strip lights mark the path at night to achieve a nighttime glistening effect.

Because the school colors are maroon and white, some of the windows are tinted a deep red "to pick up those colors and give the space a really unique glow at night," said Reed Voorhees, a senior vice president at Cannon Design.

While the effect is jewel-like, it's not like a diamond, nor was the site considered "the rough." In fact, it was a centralized place on campus, but its effect wasn't unifying. The new Bill R. Foster and Family Recreation Center was conceived as a means of connecting the north and south parts of campus in particular, allowing for the free flow of pedestrian circulation. The building's "cut" creates a dynamic experience, as passersby can peer through the windows at program activities.

There's a lot of programming on display. The facility has basketball courts; a multiuse activity court; a fitness center; a natatorium with lap lanes and a leisure pool; group exercise rooms; a jogging track; and a climbing wall. "It's only 100,000 square feet," Voorhees said, "so there's a lot going on for a building of that size."

Guests can take a walking tour that points out the sustainable features of the rec center. Signage throughout the building, along with a brochure, offer descriptions of sustainable elements such as low-VOC materials and water conservation features.

The project has received awards from the St. Louis, Central States and Springfield AIA chapters as well as recognition from NIRSA.


With the economic recovery, not all sports facility design in the education sector is reined in by limited funding, but that's not all that the lean trend encompasses. As we've seen, "going lean" can mean squeezing into small spaces and minimizing waste wherever possible. Looking forward, with so many student rec centers incorporating meditation spaces as part of their wellness mission, the trend may be "lean, green and serene."