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Archives > May 2014 > Planning for Your New Sports Facility or Gym Renovation

Planning for Your New Sports Facility or Gym Renovation

Sports facilities and gymnasiums can be critical components of a student and athlete recruitment program, and educational institutions would be wise to consider these additions or renovations carefully before making an investment.

By: Nik Ditzler

A team of executive leadership, athletic directors, facility managers, and potential facility users should be recruited and actively involved in the process of brainstorming, planning, and operationalizing a potential new or renovated sports facility or gymnasium. Keeping stakeholders involved can ensure the finished product will fit the needs of the institution while involving external experts can keep the viewpoint of those experienced in the process at the forefront to help control costs and improve the user experience.

1. Think through how your space will be used. Consider the demographics of your students and staff as well as the potential for community involvement and adapt your plans accordingly. Certain ages and experience levels have preferences for certain sports and geography will play a role in how popular certain sports might be in your facility. Parking, weather, nearby amenities, and more will affect attendance, especially when considering seasonality and daily fluctuations. Planning ahead can mean the difference between happy facility users and disgruntled former visitors.

2. If selecting ceiling or wall mounted equipment, consider what is already mounted from your gym's ceiling and walls and also consult the building manufacturer or the structural engineer to confirm what the building is capable of supporting. This step is one most would rather avoid, but it is critical to confirming the equipment you desire can be supported by your current building (or your planned-for building). Expensive retrofits, while sometimes possible, can be avoided with engineering assistance early on in the design phase. Ceiling and mounted equipment is not one-size-fits-all and its custom nature makes measurement and engineering even more important to the project's success.

3. Think ahead to possible future phases that maybe aren't in the budget right now. Trends in sports and fitness are a challenge to keep up with. Ideally, you can plan your sports facility to allow for multiple uses in the same spaces now and in the future. Portable equipment might be a good investment even if more expensive initially. Court sports such as basketball and volleyball are pretty standard, but consider that futsal, tennis, badminton, team handball, and pickleball can also be accommodated in most gyms if appropriate space is planned for this in advance. Additional equipment can be purchased at a later date, but changing flooring and room dimensions makes a future phase difficult and expensive. Also, an investment in divider curtains can double or triple the usable space for practices and intramural leagues, even multiple sports can be played simultaneously without the expense and restriction of additional walls.

4. Ask others that you network with about their experiences and learn from them. Chances are you're a member of professional organizations in your industry and many members have been through (and survived) this gym construction or renovation that you're working through now. Most of us are happy to share experiences with colleagues to save someone some extra work or expense. Your local grade school or high school district may have some local contacts for similar projects, or you might even have some construction contacts that can help guide you through some of the common hurdles. It might even be worth looking online or joining a content-focused online group (e.g. LinkedIn) so that you can post questions as they come up and gather advice from the national scene.

5. If in doubt, ask someone in the industry about the equipment questions you have (e.g. manufacturers, installers, dealers). Just as in any project, consulting experts in the field can make the difference between a successful ribbon cutting and "failure" (often expensive delays or redesigns). You'll most likely find that the sports industry is a pretty open, friendly one where the product engineers, installers, and company owners will be happy to answer your questions so that you can have the best information in front of you on which to base your decisions.

6. Consider space available for set-up and storage of equipment. Often overlooked in the planning stage, the allocation of equipment storage construction & planning by Nik Ditzler and set-up space is just as important as the public play areas. Remember, those portable basketball systems, volleyball standards, racquets, nets, and balls need a safe place away from public areas, protected from theft and vandalism. An organized system for storage means less damage, fewer injuries, and reduces the likelihood of loss. Creative designs might include a spectator observation deck in space that doubles as portable equipment storage when not in use.

For many administrators, a sports project is a little out of their wheelhouse; however, when viewed as an opportunity to boost community spirit and provide an edge to recruitment, it's really no different than any other project on the daily agenda. Setting specific outcomes for the finished facility with the decision making team's help and really digging into efficiencies and strategies offered by outside experts will pay dividends as the construction ends and the new or newly renovated facility is unveiled to the public. Building in flexibility for future expansion or adjustments in usage might be more important for gym-type buildings than educational spaces, but only due to the vast variety of fitness and sports activities incoming students may have interest in. 

 

 

About The Author
Nik Ditzler

is Director of Bison, Inc.'s Specified Products Group, headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska. For over 30 years, Bison and its divisions have provided innovative, safe and sustainable products to schools, park districts, rec centers and private clubs for indoor and outdoor sports and recreation activities. Details can be found at www.bisoninc.com.

 

 

 

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