Feature Article - May 2018
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The Changing Face of Recreation

Multigenerational, Multipurpose Facilities

By Rick Dandes

Designing for Flexibility

Understanding that the leading trend, driven by users, is for fitness training and wellness programs in recreation centers, "municipalities are asking us that when we design there is enough flexibility to account for these differing kinds of fitness programs," Matoba said. For example, he explained, a walking track with space next to it. "We will use the space we have for a pull-up bar or ropes attached to a column at a station. The track can be used as part of interval training, just to provide additional flexibility or multi-use. Traditionally, people just walked or jogged, but that's changing."

Matoba's designs look at rooms that might have been used just for aerobics or traditional fitness room, but now can be used for audio-visual effects. For example, you could display an image of a serene lake on a wall, turn the lights down, and it becomes a yoga or meditation room. "We are using video technology as part of the changing needs of people who use the space," he said.

In many centers, Matoba continued, "they become not just recreation centers. Maybe there will be a space for people to get on the Internet, or maybe a place for moms to hang out that has access to Wi-Fi where you can plug your phone in—things that will get the community involved, even if they are not engaged in recreation programs.

That's right, Parisi, of Williams Architects, said. "We no longer start dedicating space to particular programs, because in that case the efficiency of the space goes down. What we want is to start designing spaces that allow for the most flexibility from a programming perspective to handle current trends and then for potentially upcoming trends in the market. That is very important because what you end up doing is getting the versatility of spaces."

In the morning you could have an active adult space in a multi-use room, with retirees coming in when all the kids are in school; as the day goes on the same room can turn into an after-school space, where kids can socialize and play games. Providing flexibility in those spaces might mean having operable panels to provide for a single larger program, or two smaller programs.

Success Story

Ten years ago, Williams Architects, along with the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Department, in Carmel, Ind., partnered to develop an entire recreation system on a 120-acre parcel. "In one fell swoop," Parisi said, they created a central park in the community, put a 110,000-square-foot recreation center on it, connected it to regional trails, created a pond, and have added outdoor and indoor aquatics. And they created jobs, growing from a staff of 10 to 100, by the time the entire area was done.

The center has been very well received, reported Michael W. Klitzing, chief operating officer, Carmel Clay Parks & Recreation. Usually over a year, more than half a million people go through the facility.

"What is very important to us is not just building and making upgrades to it, but we have been very diligent in ensuring that throughout the course of the 10 years we are continually remodeling it and adapting space to accommodate the needs of the users today," Klitzing said. "And what we offer today is not necessarily what we needed 10 years ago or what we thought was needed 10 years ago."

Carmel Clay is an example of a successful multi-use, multigenerational approach to a recreation center. When it opened, Klitzing explained, it included many of the typical recreation components, a gymnasium, a walking track and a fitness center. There was an area committed to more passive activity. The center was also envisioned as a place for banquets and community meetings, as well as more general, lower impact recreation programs like arts and crafts, or adult education. Subsequent surveys taken during the past few years found that fitness was the number one need in the community for recreation programming.

"We were already providing a significant amount of that kind of programming, but they wanted more of it. The study made that very clear," he said. Over the years they have been transitioning to serve those needs. A space that might have been predominantly passive is being used more for group fitness programs.

"We have converted flooring that was carpeted into a rubberized flooring that is more appropriate for group fitness classes," Klitzing said. "But these spaces can still be used for those programs such as arts and crafts. We have been very cognizant of making those changes that allow us to not only expand the group fitness programming at our facility, but also be able to maintain the other types that are equally important to our community."

Ironically, the space appropriated for banquet events—a need in the area when the facility opened, Klitzing said—began to decrease as new hotels and banquet facilities opened in the region. "We phased out of that and focused on areas where there was a greater demand than supply in the community."

Parisi helped redesign those underutilized banquet rooms. "We went back and retrofitted the spaces with the correct finishes, started bringing day camps and doing passive recreation in those same rooms, which were sitting dormant for three-quarters of the day."