Feature Article - September 2019
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Looking Back, Moving Forward

Celebrating 20 Years of Recreation, Sports & Fitness

By Dave Ramont


Many newer facilities are allocating significant amounts of space and resources to aquatic amenities, according to Armstrong, citing the Center of Recreation Excellence (CORE) in Hobbs, N.M., as an example. The immersive and technologically advanced environment features two 40-foot tall body slides with lights and music, a themed desert environment complete with an actual monsoon thunderstorm, a lazy river, zero-depth beach entry and spa. "Creating facilities like these are truly a way for cities to differentiate themselves from surrounding communities to draw in new residents and revenues," said Armstrong.

McKenna said sustainability is a fey focus for most of their clients, so they need to be aware of leading-edge materials and engineering solutions to meet these goals. "We've designed hockey rinks with refrigeration systems that can make ice and generate heat for buildings, we've designed football practice facilities that rely on 100% natural ventilation—there's a ton of creativity when it comes to sustainable design."

Armstrong said they're thinking more critically about the exterior envelope around a facility and working on new strategies to reduce the amount of energy consumed. "In our current facilities we're finding they're using about a third of the amount of energy compared to those designed 20 years ago."

It's imperative for designers to create adaptable and flexible spaces to accommodate the latest technologies, according to Armstrong, since technology is constantly creating new trends. He mentioned wearable devices as an example. "This trend has introduced new interactive features into the fitness environment, such as individualization and customization in the way people use facilities, which has directly influenced the manner in which fitness areas are laid out and developed."

Einhorn agrees that technology is a huge driver in the evolution of sports facility design. "Think about all the things we can now do on our phones when attending sporting events—show our tickets, order food, see how long bathroom lines are, check fantasy sports scores and more. As technology empowers these new possibilities, facilities change how they shape spaces."

Reed Vorhees, senior vice president at CannonDesign, described how the MAC (multiuse activity court) has evolved since debuting in the 1990s. With advancements in sport flooring technologies and equipment, MACs accommodate a wide range of programming opportunities in addition to traditional basketball and volleyball programs, including indoor soccer, floor hockey and team handball, as well as Weekend Warrior training, sleep-ins, conferences and tradeshows. "We continue to see greater interest in highly flexible spaces that enable a broader range of creative programming opportunities, coupled with a desire by students for activities that contribute to a heightened level of energy throughout buildings with unique features that allow unique design solutions."

Armstrong believes that facilities are working hard to meet the desires of their patrons, which have changed over 20 years, and as such, the makeup of facilities has changed accordingly. "What will be really fun is to see in the next 20 years what we will all reflect upon relative to the facilities we are all creating, designing and using today!"

"The future looks incredibly fun and powerful," Caron concluded. "Quickly changing technology will change the way we relax, play, train and compete." He believes that augmented reality, social media, biometric monitoring and shifting weather patterns could all affect the evolution of facilities over the next 20 years. "Change is coming fast, and we'll need to continuously evolve to change with it." RM