Feature Article - October 2017
Find a printable version here

Add a Little Shade

Shelters, Shade Structures Mix Function & Style

By Deborah L. Vence

For example, Bayman's company provided Eagle Creek Elementary in Orlando, Fla., with a cooling shade structure to protect kids from potentially dangerous playground conditions during the hot summer months. The structure features a cooling shade fabric for maximum air cooling and protection from up to 99 percent of the sun's dangerous UV rays. Also, the canopy can be removed and reattached easily.

Together, the school's PTA and the community raised funds and were able to have a sunshade constructed over playgrounds at Eagle Creek Elementary, allowing 100 minutes of shade per week to a play area that was directly exposed to the sun.

Besides the sun, Bayman noted that additional benefits of shade structures "include the opportunity to use an almost endless combination of colors and shapes to design a unique look that will enhance the visual attraction of any site."

Lubbers said that the benefits of providing shelters and shade structures to a community are as varied as their uses.

"Improvements to recreational infrastructure can transform previously unused outdoor spaces into vibrant public activity centers," he said. "I am a big fan of reusing former industrial and commercial lands for public recreation, like Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lake, Ill., developed on the lands of a former gravel quarry."

Lubbers' company's shelters were used throughout the park to provide shade along hiking trails, picnic spots on the lakes, and a large group shelter with fireplace for gatherings of family and friends.

Similarly, Graves said that open-air structures provide protection to people and animals from the harsh outdoor elements, including heat, rain, snow and, most importantly, the sun. But, she added, they also can bring a community together and provide a connection with nature.

"Our process allows our structures to assemble quickly onsite and eliminates welding inspections, painting and other on-site disruptions," Graves said. "Our precision-cut steel components and reliable engineered construction eliminates exposed bolts and allows us to remove the typical nesting locations of birds, preventing unsightly messes."


Uses for shelters and shade structures are almost endless, with family get-togethers or reunions, concerts, parties, etc., being just some of the ways you can use the structures.

For example, some of Bayman's company's most popular fabric shade applications right now include playgrounds, pools, spectator seating, sport courts, outdoor stages, concession and dining areas, vehicle parking and more.

Early on, Lubbers' company provided the superstructure for a 100-foot, 12-sided carousel house that was built at Brookfield Zoo, which is located just west of Chicago.

"A few years later I visited the zoo, and found out from zoo personnel that the cost of the carousel and the carousel house were paid off in two years of selling $1 and $2 rides," he said.

In another example, in 2006, 2008 and 2016, Lubbers' company provided a few dozen shade structures for the ballfields at Old Settler's Park in Round Rock, Texas.

"When I first visited the site in 2005, there were a few tired-looking ballfields in that park of several hundred acres. Now, Old Settler's Park is the home of a busy complex of softball, baseball and soccer fields that operates almost year round," he said.

"Shade structures, as part of recreational infrastructure improvements, provide not only services to the citizens of a community, but also revenue to the community," Lubbers added.

Graves noted that amphitheaters can make a site the hub of entertainment, and the go-to place for hosting public events.

"They also can provide a return on investment through concerts, performances and fundraisers in your park," she said. "Signage can also be added to a structure, created with our high-performance laser, to identify sponsors and enhance site recognition."

Structures even can be used for farmers markets and other outdoor venues, such as a fitness zone promoting a healthy community.

Shades and shelters create spaces that invite people to spend more time outdoors.

"A park may utilize a number of shelters that they allow people from the community to rent for a space to host a family reunion, a birthday party or even an outdoor wedding," Curtis said.

This, in turn, creates revenue for the park and enables local residents to host an event on a larger scale outside their home.

"Some communities have utilized shelters to host a weekend farmers market or craft fair," he said. "Playgrounds utilize shade structures to create a space that children and families can spend more time outdoors by shading the playground equipment from being directly exposed to the sunlight, creating a space that is cooler and more comfortable to extend play time," he said. "A waterpark will use shade to create areas around the park that people can get out of the sun for periods of time and extend the time that they can enjoy the waterpark," he added.