Feature Article - May 2017
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Space For Fun & Wellness

12 Trends in Multipurpose Design

By Chris Gelbach

According to leading architects who work in the recreation space, a variety of new trends in multipurpose recreation facility design are changing the look, feel and functionality of YMCA and community recreation centers.

In many cases, these changes are aimed at creating spaces that address ascendant fitness trends, serve to make patrons more comfortable, and expand the appeal of these facilities to serve ever-wider swaths of the community beyond the traditional fitness crowd. Here are 12 of the most common trends influencing the designs of these multipurpose facilities.

#1: More Group Exercise Spaces

Keith Hayes, principal of Barker Rinker Seacat Architects, saw his firm meet this demand in their recent design for the new Sammamish Community YMCA in Sammamish, Wash. "Ten years ago, we were designing buildings that had a modest fitness area and one group exercise classroom," Hayes said. "This facility has a fitness center that is probably three to four times the size of a fitness area that we would have done 10 years ago. In addition, there are three to four group exercise rooms, and my understanding is that they're just all packed at all times of the day."

Keith Russeau, architect and principal at The Collaborative, is also seeing clients prioritize group exercise in the overall facility design. "We're definitely seeing a shift in space prioritization to include more group exercise rooms," Russeau said. "That percentage of space is becoming higher than your traditional cardio and weight areas."

To support different activities, Russeau is also seeing facilities opt for different flooring for different uses. In a facility with three group exercise spaces, one might feature a wood flooring suitable for yoga, Zumba, Pilates and spinning. Another might have a turf floor for suspension training and functional training. A third might have vinyl flooring suitable for non-impact training, meetings and social events.

#2: Room to Stretch

As part of a demand for ever-growing fitness spaces, new facilities are also increasing their open fitness areas for stretching, functional fitness and personal training. Avoiding the temptation to jam every square inch of the facility with equipment also gives it more long-term versatility.

"The building needs to embrace the future," said Dave Larson, senior vice president and director of design for TMP Architecture. "In the weight fitness areas, we want them to not fill it up so that when the next new cool piece of equipment comes in, you have the space to put it in quickly and show that you're relevant and up to date in the industry."

Where the climate permits, Russeau is also seeing more instances of facilities opting to expand their functional fitness areas more affordably by including a turfed-over outside exercise area that's fenced in and open-air but sometimes partially covered.

#3: A Growth in Partnerships

To share cost burdens, facilitate the construction of these larger facilities and better serve customers, more communities and YMCAs are sharing new facilities with partners. In the case of the Sammamish Community YMCA, the project is actually a public-private partnership between the City of Sammamish and the YMCA, with the city owning the building and the Y operating the facility.

Bob McDonald and Doni Visani, senior principals and architects for OLC (Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative), saw another kind of partnership in their work on the Estes Valley Community Center, which is currently under construction and will combine a senior center and recreation center under one roof.

As part of the unique partnership, the facility will include a full commercial kitchen that the senior center will use to prepare Meals on Wheels and the rec center will use for large functions. "They will be able to plate a banquet of 250 or 300 people if they want and use it for large annual fundraising events. They do a Thanksgiving dinner that's a big community event, and they're going to do it out of this facility," McDonald said.

Combining the senior center with the rec center will give seniors access to state-of-the-art aerobics studios, fitness areas and pools. The community will benefit from a state-of-the-art community room with a sound system and banquet facility. "It's a one-plus-one-equals-three type of proposition," McDonald said.

Another recent OLC project, Choice Health & Fitness in Grand Forks, N.D., is a partnership between the Grand Forks Park District and the Altru Family YMCA, which received a $6.5 million investment from Altru Health System. Choice Financial added $2.75 million through a naming sponsor agreement. The 162,000-square-foot facility includes fitness, gym, tennis and aquatics areas as well as onsite services that include a nutrition research center, spa services and a wellness center that includes a prevention clinic, physical therapy services, dieticians, chiropractic and wellness programs.