3 Steps for Success: Expanding Your Collegiate Recreation Center

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Colleges and universities built around the turn of the 20th century continue to deal with the challenge of trying to expand and reinvigorate recreation centers never designed for expansion. These key facilities were designed to meet the needs of the campus population at the time they were built, with little thought for the future. However, as campus trends evolve and universities plan for the future, several of these iconic facilities simply lack the space to successfully support modern campus recreation demands.

This reality places universities in an interesting position – how do you strategically expand a building never intended for expansion? Or, how do you create an entirely new facility that will allow for expansion and support future change and growth? These can be difficult challenges, but there are key steps universities can take to position themselves for success.

Step 1: Know Your Resources. The first step university and campus recreation leadership should take is fully educating themselves on existing resources. Those fortunate enough to have an existing facility with available land close by should execute a facility audit of the building to fully understand its physical condition. A physical and functional analysis will bring to light any potential deficiencies, be they architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, or related to plumbing and fire protection. With this baseline assessment in hand, teams can then know for sure the full investments associated with renovation, expansion and/or building new.

Step 2: Know your Plan. Plan in Advance. A huge question that needs to be answered when considering facility expansion is, “Do we have enough land?” While rural campuses may have ample land available, most institutions in heavily populated areas do not. In extreme situations, recreation centers may have been created with a “one and done” mentality, meaning future growth will have to take place elsewhere.

If you’re considering expansion of your recreation center and have not identified a location for future growth, now is the time to talk to your campus architect or planner. They can share the campus master plan that outlines the long-term vision for the campus and can help you identify growth strategies, land development scenarios, proposed infrastructure improvements and future building sites.

Step 3: Conduct a Feasibility Study. If answers for expansion aren’t clear after assessing your facility and master plan — and maybe even if they are — it might be worth executing a feasibility study. These studies require minimal investment and help universities evaluate available sites, right-size program needs, develop conceptual strategies to accommodate projected growth, compare pros and cons of various options and establish a solid foundation for the future. Feasibility studies also quickly help you test various options: Should we add a larger volume space such as a gymnasium onto an existing facility? Or should we consider smaller, more flexible spaces such as fitness or multipurpose rooms?

Colleen McKenna leads CannonDesign’s collegiate recreation and sports practice and is at the forefront of sports design. For more information she can be reached at cmckenna@cannondesign.com.

Emily Harbourne is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at emily@peakemedia.com.

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