Feature Article - May 2018
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The Changing Face of Recreation

Multigenerational, Multipurpose Facilities

By Rick Dandes

Mixing Use

Stephen Springs, senior principal, Brinkley Sargent Wiginton, of Dallas, said recreation centers want to reach a broad audience though multi-use centers, where senior centers and recreation centers share the same space.

"We are working on one right now in Arlington, Texas, where we are integrating a library into a senior center," Springs said. "It is not necessarily a new model to have a library share a roof with a recreation center, but this is the first one we've done where they are actually integrating their operation, sharing program space. That is breaking some new ground and in this client's experience it is a unique deal, which certainly broadens the appeal and allows for cross marketing."

The library idea is interesting because there are more and more grandparents raising kids, or at least acting as caregivers during the day. Having a senior center and a library along with a recreation center allows that multigenerational activity to appeal to both the caregiver and the child. In the summer they can be running camps in the facility, but the grandparent can still hang out in the senior center or go to the library.

It keeps everybody active and engaged, Springs said. "It reduces the shut-ins, particularly in some of those underserved areas, such as the one in Arlington. This is an entirely new building and a new way of thinking about recreation. We have done buildings with a library, senior center and a recreation center together many times; that idea is not new. But they tend to have their own entrances and their own turf in the building."

While this one does contain elements that are their own turf, he said, "they are sharing a common lobby and will share some common spaces so, there will be classrooms where sometimes the recreation center is programming and other times when the library staff is programming. The common lobby space will be available to people that are just there to read a book or do some research, as well as people that are hanging out between recreation classes. It's of much more mixed use than co-located use."

Springs believes this facility, due to open in 2019, will get some national attention. "Other cities might be interested in talking to Arlington about how they figured out how to operate this," he said. "They use the words cross-training. In their eyes they envision some efficiencies in staffing by sharing. I don't know how that will play out in the real world; you can't expect a librarian to tell people how to use fitness equipment, and vice versa. But the notion of having a common control desk, where people can go to learn about the programs in one place seems to make sense."

This is something that is innovative and still on the boards, Springs said. "We're designing it, but it's an interesting project from a programming standpoint. It's got a library component, a small indoor pool, a lot of traditional rec-center attributes, a small senior center space. The reason it can fit a lot into that footage is the cross-programming and sharing of the program spaces.

One of the challenges Arlington is still working through is that some of the programming through the library is free, while similar programming offered by the recreation side isn't. "On the operations side, they are ultimately going to have to solve what their pricing structure will be. The recreation center can't offer computer classes for a fee if the library is doing it for free. Some programming may have to move into one side completely. There is a lot for them to think about."