Feature Article - October 2019
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Great Escapes

Provide Respite & Relaxation With Shelters & Shade Structures

By Deborah Vence

From being a go-to place to escape the rain or blazing hot sun to being the chosen location for a family picnic or other special outdoor gathering, shelters and shade structures continue to offer unique functions in a wide variety of locations.

"Shade and shelters are becoming more integrated into outdoor spaces where people gather and spend time," said Scott Curtis, director of sales for a Red Bud, Ill.-based manufacturer of shelters, site furnishings and more. For example, he said, "shade is no longer just used to cover playgrounds to help keep the temperatures down and provide UV blockage for children as they play; more spaces utilizing both shade and shelters are now being placed around the playground so additional family members can enjoy the time outdoors as well."

Aquatic centers, parks and athletic fields alike have incorporated shelters and shade structures into their recreational environments, which provide not only a specific function of protecting patrons from the outdoor elements, but also offer a visual appeal.

A Variety of Functions

Simply put, some of the most popular uses of shelters and shade structures have been "to shade playground equipment, water play and pools, bleachers and dugouts, and seating areas, such as concessions or just benches," said Alan Bayman, president of an Ocala, Fla.-based company that designs and manufactures pre-engineered outdoor fabric shade structures, canopies and awning covers.

"However, more recently, people concerned about dangerous sun exposure have been demanding shade protection at school pickup areas, tennis/bocce ball/shuffleboard courts, golf courses, amphitheaters/stages, and even dog daycares," he said.

The multiple uses of shelters and shade structures include athletic fields, which "incorporate dugouts, bleacher covers and concession areas to keep both players and spectators out of direct sunlight and shielded from rain," said Jennifer Graves, marketing coordinator for a company that specializes in the design, engineering and manufacturing of open air steel shade structures.

Curtis agreed, adding, "We are seeing cantilever-style shades and shelters being utilized more at sports facilities to cover the bleacher seating areas. For years, shelters have been used as dugout covers, but now the larger sports complexes are also building large shelters with picnic tables to use as team-gathering spots or for cookout and dining areas to be used during weekend tournament play.

"Shade and shelters are also starting to be utilized in outdoor fitness areas that are associated with fitness and walking trails, or on the grounds of multi-family housing or HOA clubhouse areas," he added.

"Amphitheaters create a central focal point for a stage, while also being a revenue generator for concerts and events," Graves added. "Carousel covers protect expensive mechanical components and uniquely crafted ride pieces from sun fading and weather damage. Walkway covers and entrance canopies create wayfinding points to building entrances while also working as transit waiting areas. Farmers' markets create an open-air venue allowing vendors to work through longer seasons while creating a space that brings community together."