Planning a Winning Facility
Inline Hockey & Multipurpose Facilities
By Heather Landreville
It is a familiar situation for many. The old facility is rundown, demand for space is increasing and/or programming needs have changed. Clearly the time has come for a new hockey, soccer or multipurpose facility. What isn't clear to many is the first step. Truly successful facilities begin before design, even before budgeting and fund-raising. It sounds elementary, but the most important phase in the success of a recreation facility begins with planning.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
Whether a facility is public or private, embracing the planning phase will provide a smooth transition into design and budgeting and, in the end, provide a better return on investment. Initial planning should cover a wide range of topics including programming, review of existing facilities/equipment, maintenance and budget. Researching these areas will lead to a clear path for choosing the right products and design for your needs.
A logical place to start is to define the intended programming for the facility. The programming should drive the design and the products that go into it, not vice versa. The most common mistake is to design a facility around a single sport. While some facilities are able to support full usage by one sport, such as soccer or inline hockey, the overwhelming majority of facilities are planned for multipurpose use. Building around core sports and filling in with other activities increases the ability to manage changing programming trends and can extend the life of a facility.
One key to success for many facilities is using every available programming minute of the day. How will the facility be used from open to close?
Here are some initial questions to bring information to the programming discussion:
- Are there other facilities in the area? Where are they and what are they like? What programming do they provide? How much do they charge?
- What programs are currently running? Will you be able to build on existing programs? Will you need to launch new programs? Are you able fill in a two-year programming calendar or are there holes?
- How will you market the programs? How will you staff the programs? Have you considered the financial efficiencies of a dual rink facility?
- Have you considered incorporating youth activities/camps into the facility? Have you considered any other activities: home-school children, meetings, shows, to name a few?
Once you understand your programming a little better, the next step is to review your existing facilities and equipment. Even when building a new facility, it is important to determine what is available to use in conjunction with the new facility. For example, is there an existing concrete slab suitable for inline hockey play? Is there existing, underutilized space in an indoor gymnasium? Is the old facility suitable for a retrofit, which updates only those items that need it and makes use of other items that still have years of life left?
Answers to these questions can help you define the equipment or existing facility elements you will need to incorporate into the project, as well as those materials you will need to purchase.
How the facility will be maintained can bring clarity to the type of equipment needed, which in turn affects the budget. The life of the facility is directly affected by the level of maintenance planned. Is this facility intended for short- or long-term use? Are there dedicated personnel for daily maintenance? Of course, outdoor and indoor facilities require different types of care. Similarly, different equipment requires different levels of maintenance.
Often, there is an exchange for the quality of product you purchase and the level of maintenance required. For example, imagine an outdoor inline hockey facility that is built on an existing tennis court surface and built from a wood frame. While the facility was able to save money by using an existing surface, and the initial cost of the wood-frame system was relatively inexpensive, the maintenance and replacement costs for that facility may be high, and the quality of play and expected life of the facility may be low. On the other hand, imagine a facility built on a concrete slab prepared for inline hockey play and utilizing aluminum-frame dasher boards. While the initial investment is higher, the maintenance and upkeep of the facility may be minimal, the quality of play will be excellent, and it may have a longer life.
So, is it wiser to spend the money upfront to reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of the facility, or is it more prudent to go with the least inexpensive start-up and plan for continued maintenance? Over the long run, return on investment may end up being the same. The deciding factor may be the quality of play intended, and the quality of play can decide whether your facility is used or not.
The last important part of planning involves the budget. Some projects begin with partial or full funds already designated, but many projects start with zero-base budgeting. In either case, the challenge in the planning phase becomes focusing on the project goals, rather than the budget dollars. It sounds a little backward, but in the end, the best return on your facility goals will come from planning your facility for success and letting the budget follow. That is not to say unlimited or unmanaged spending is recommended. Rather, if the specific goals of the facility were properly identified in the planning phase, the creating of the budget should be clearly defined by those goals.
Ideally, the resulting budget does not exceed available funds, but there are several options if the projected budget is not immediately viable. Assuming that the projected budget has already been reviewed for accuracy, one option is to go back to the drawing board and adjust the goals for the facility. Because goals had already been carefully planned, this can be very difficult—similar to rethinking a senior thesis you were ready to submit. Another option is to raise funds to meet the needs of the budget and goals of the facility. While it may seem daunting, there are a number of ways to address raising funds.
A capital fund-raising drive can be used to solicit donations for the project. The theme of the drive should focus on community goodwill and benefits, youth athletic enrichment and opportunities, and progressive relationships and efforts by the local government.
Sponsorships can provide ongoing revenue, and if pre-sold, initial sponsorship dollars may be used for development costs. By extending beyond simply selling dasher board ads, sponsorships represent a more sophisticated and valuable partnership between the facility and programs and its sponsors. Ideas for individual or packaged sponsorship opportunities include naming rights, on-site marketing or product-testing opportunities, recognition in schedules/programs, promotional inserts with registration packets, exclusive rights to jersey and vending (among other) contracts, championship or division sponsorship, dasher advertising, and more.
One final piece of advice for the important planning phase: Defer to the experts. Partnering with consultants or companies that understand the sport(s) involved as well as the design and construction processes will not only speed up the project but will bring a comprehensive approach to planning a facility specific to your needs. In the end, investing time and resources in planning specific facility goals will pave the way for a smooth design process and will contribute a great deal toward the success of the facility.
Heather Landreville is marketing manager of Athletica. She can be reached at HLandreville@athletica.com.
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