Make A Statement!

Shelters, Shade Structures Go Above and Beyond

By Deborah L. Vence

With today's designs in shelters and shade structures more sophisticated than ever, aquatic facilities, playgrounds and other outdoor spaces are getting more than just protection from the rain and the sun's harsh UV rays. They are getting function and style, with structures that are being better fitted to a site's backdrop.

No longer are shelters and shade structures being designed as merely squares or hexagons. Now, the options are unlimited.

"It used to be that you would look at a company's shelter offerings and choose one of their standard shapes and sizes. [Now], you can choose a standard shape and the size can be customized by 1-foot increments. Or, you can go with a completely different design that has never been done before," according to sources from a Holland, Mich.-based company that specializes in the engineering and manufacturing of shade coverings.

No longer are shelters and shade structures being designed as merely squares or hexagons. Now, the options are unlimited.

Today, shelters can be made to better blend with their environment, too. And, the same type of design and colors can be used to complement the surroundings, with landscape architects being able to take a shade product and make it fit into their vision seamlessly.

"In times past, the gazebo at the center of the park or garden was a focal point. In many ways, that is still the case," said Richard Lubbers, vice president of marketing for a Holland, Mich.-based company that designs and produces standard and custom steel-framed shelters for the park and transportation industries. "Many landscape designs have a shade structure that grounds everything else. However, today the structure may have a more pragmatic purpose.

"Today's public spaces offer more than a leisurely resting place. They are often the center of activity, and today's shelters are more active than their static forerunners," he said. "That's why we developed the two-story shelter a couple years ago, and why we're adding more product this year. Because form follows function, today's shelters offer more to the public in the way of amenities."

Park benches and picnic tables have populated shelters for years. But, it is not unusual today, Lubbers said, to see a public shelter with a living room feel, in which friends and family members can put their feet up around a large coffee table on fixed couches in front of a fireplace.

"Furnishings designed to bring people together for activities in a shelter might include audio and visual, with the ability to plug in and charge, and connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth," he said.

Moreover, shelters are used as an "architectural sunscreen," giving "ultraviolet relief" to active participants in outdoor sports.

"We once covered an entire outdoor roller hockey rink in Florida, and a group of bocce courts in Ontario. The same is being done for tennis, basketball and other outdoor games," Lubbers said.

To create a more unique aesthetic statement, many clients of an Ocala, Fla.-based outdoor shade manufacturer have been asking for shades designed in brighter colors than in the past.

"The popular fabric colors used to be earth tones, such as forest green and tans for playgrounds, and blue for water activity areas. This year we introduced five new colors to our standard palette, including lime green, grape purple and fire orange. Brighter colors like those help a venue stand out by making a bold statement," said Alan Bayman, president of the Ocala, Fla.-based company that designs and manufactures pre-engineered outdoor fabric shade structures, canopies, umbrellas and awning covers.

Meanwhile, other trends in shelters and shade structures include polycarbonate roofing or non-traditional materials for roofing; and areas for people to congregate in the city as opposed to outside the city in the park.

Lakefront Park
Kissimmee, Fla.

In Kissimmee, Fla., city officials hired a Holland, Mich.-based company that specializes in the engineering and manufacturing of shade coverings, to help showcase both their cultural and historical heritage to the community through the use of structures at Lakefront Park along Lake Tohopekaliga.

Today's public spaces offer more than a leisurely resting place. They are often the center of activity, and today's shelters are more active than their static forerunners.

This particular area had a strong Native American influence and was instrumental in the development of agricultural trade at the turn of the century.

In this case, the old homes (owned by captains of paddlewheel boats, land barons and wealthy cattlemen) had metal roofs, and the use of wood and brick were commonplace in both business and residential structures. White was a predominant color of buildings and in some later years, ceiling fans became common amenities to structures, according to information from the shade manufacturer.

Each shelter is treated equally and with high attention to detail, whether it is a small square or a large custom structure.

After the client saw the first series of structures installed they decided to add more. What originally started as eight to 10 buildings has grown to 20-plus buildings to date. Two large multi-gable structures are the centerpiece of the park. The first houses restrooms and concessions while the other was designed with a fireplace in the middle. Both are capable of housing large events. The walkways are covered with gable roof shelters and incorporate louvers to help with air flow. A large trellis also creates a beautiful backdrop for weddings.

And, the project has been a success, with the attention to detail and making the structures the focal points of the park.

Each shelter is treated equally and with high attention to detail, whether it is a small square or a large custom structure.

"The shade structures that we have are beautiful, incorporating many building materials from the early 1900s such as wood tongue-and-groove ceilings, brick columns and metal roofs. We also placed ceiling fans in the structures," said Dan Loubier, director, city of Kissimmee, Parks, Recreation & Public Facilities Department. "These were the type of materials used for construction in Kissimmee, Fla., at the turn of the century. So, one improvement has been the aesthetic value and historical significance. Of course the real value is the availability of several shelters for our park users."

He said when the city reconstructed Lakefront Park, 15 new shelters were added to the park alone.

"Our shelters are very popular in Kissimmee at all parks so we knew that the structures we built at the Lakefront would be very popular and they are. We were taking care of the needs of our residents and visitors by constructing the new shelters. The entire park was reconstructed so all of the old structures/shelters were removed and new shelters were built," Loubier said.

In many cases the shelters in Kissimmee are rented out more than one year in advance.

"The public's response has been fantastic and they are heavily used. We rent these shelters so we have also shown an increase in our overall revenue for rentals of the shelters," he said. "We have had no complaints about the cost and the public loves the shelters as evidenced by the fact that they are rented far in advance."

Jacksonville, Fla.

In Jacksonville, Fla., the city's riverfront now is donned with 18 shade coverings along with night lighting.

The shade structures were installed by an Ocala, Fla.-based outdoor shade structure manufacturer whose line at the riverfront boasts fabric architecture for cooling shade and aesthetic beauty. The shades also feature jet black metals with eggshell white canopies. The project was for the city of Jacksonville's Public Works Department.

Fabric shade is a natural for absorbing and reflecting indirect light in various colors for an eye-catching nighttime effect.

The shade structures have arching steel piping arms that radiate outward from a curved central support column to create a five-point tensioned shade canopy that makes a bold architectural statement about its determination to shade stylishly. The line is available with electrical accommodations for beautiful fabric shade structures with night lighting.

"Night lighting is a feature we are being asked for more and more, as property managers look for ways to use their facilities at night as well as during the day," Bayman said.

"A logical way to do this is to illuminate their shade structures instead of installing dedicated lighting at a significantly higher cost," he said. "[We] offer an 'electrical package' for most structures, which includes access boxes and gasketed cover plates for electricians to run wiring through our support columns and attach light fixtures."

Bayman said that in the case of the Jacksonville Riverfront project, the lights actually are located in the walkway in front of each shade, so the light is shining up at the fabric canopies and illuminating them for a very attractive indirect lighting effect.

"Fabric shade is a natural for absorbing and reflecting indirect light in various colors for an eye-catching nighttime effect that attracts visitors," Bayman said.

The shades also feature a special UV protection fabric that is available in a variety of colors for maximum air cooling and protection from up to 99 percent of the sun's dangerous UV rays.

"Plus, removal and re-attachment of the canopy is a breeze with our simple stainless steel fastening features built right in," he said.

North Trail Park

Creative shade isn't just for decorating the riverfront. Playgrounds and outdoor exercise areas—particularly in southern states—are kept cooler when shade canopies are installed to protect them from the sun's heat.

In Miami, multi-level framed "sails" were used for a more imaginative shade solution over outdoor exercise equipment. The project was for the Miami-Dade County Parks & Open Spaces.

Bayman said Miami-Dade County Parks, one of the largest park systems in the country, wanted something more creative for the project than just a utilitarian fabric-on-frame design.

"Our design lent itself well to this project since it provides a perfectly square shade covering over the cement pad under the exercise equipment, but also creates an imaginative look similar to our more free-flowing 'Sail' designs with layers of overlapping canopies," he said.

Theater on the Green
Prescott Valley, Ariz.

In Prescott Valley, Ariz., civic development impact fees were recently used to cover a concrete stage on the grounds of the town's civic center campus, creating a performance space with a lawn for spectator seating.

"As envisioned in the master plan for growth of the Civic Complex, the town moved forward with expansion of the stage and installation of the roof over the stage, including lighting improvements," said Prescott Valley's Projects Coordinator Kim Moon. "It has been formally named the 'Theater on the Green.'"

The new amphitheater helps protect performers from the heat of the desert sun, and nighttime lighting stretches the potential for providing events.

As part of the project, the stage was expanded to nearly double its original size, and a custom amphitheater cover was provided by a Dewey, Ariz.-based shelter and shade structure manufacturer. The roof was designed to complement the nearby Civic Center complex, which includes library and police buildings.

The structure has a powder-coated tubular steel frame and designed and fabricated custom tubular steel trusses. The roof included a 2-inch by 6-inch tongue and groove ceiling and standing seam roof to match the existing buildings.

Moon said the finished product, completed in January 2015, is quite popular, and that there's been an increase in community events and entertainment.

Pah Rah Park
Sparks, Nev.

In Sparks, Nev., special cooling fabric canopies were installed last year at Pah Rak Park, a popular community gathering place for parents and children.

The canopies, purchased from an Ocala, Fla.-based manufacturer of outdoor shade structures, screen up to 99 percent of the sun's dangerous UV rays and can lower temperatures by 15 to 20 degrees. With temperatures in Reno often reaching more than 100 degrees, park officials wanted shade equipment to protect parents and kids from the sun.

The Pah Rah Park shade canopies are engineered to attach at each point with a single stainless steel connection. All of the cables and hardware are also stainless steel for maximum corrosion resistance and longevity, according to a press release on the manufacturer's website.

This is the first type of shade canopy installed at the park. "It was installed at the time of a new all abilities playground installation within Pah Rah Park," said Tracy L. Domingues, Parks and Recreation Director, city of Sparks Parks and Recreation Department, adding that feedback about the shade canopies has been very positive.

© Copyright 2022 Recreation Management. All rights reserved.