How to Succeed at Facility Updates

In 1990, Central Michigan University students were playing basketball, volleyball and racquetball on new wood courts in the campus’ recreational facility.

In 2009, students were playing on courts that were basically deteriorating.

What’s a university to do when it comes to updating items like this in its recreational facility?

“No, you don’t go out and buy new courts,” said Stan Shingles, the assistant vice president of daily operations at Central Michigan University. “You put yours on a rigorous renovation and maintenance program … now the students of today are playing on courts that feel like three or four years old, not 25 years.”

Shingles explained that oftentimes when renovation is thought of, people tend to veer towards the bells and whistles, like adding new equipment. However, renovation and facility updating must also include infrastructure, he said.

“It’s about being proactive. We build brand-new facilities and then we start worrying about how to maintain them and how to renovate them later, where it’s like a computer or car: The day that you get it, the next day it gets older and you’ve got to stay ahead of these things,” said Shingles. “You’ve got to have a good strategic approach, everything from how you fund it to putting it within the realm of preventative maintenance before it reaches the end of its life cycle.”

There were two essentials Shingles spoke of when it comes to updates:

  • Working with the experts, from those who know about building codes to electricity.
  • Plan, plan, plan. For example, plan to update during a peak period when your improvements won’t impact the users.

First and foremost, Shingles said the experts must be consulted. At Central Michigan, he said they have open discussions in a collaborative process. In the past, Shingles has seen a lack of communication lead to ineffectiveness in facility updates. Since his goal is “to spend a dollar twice,” Shingles explained he consults with the facility management engineers to give him what he called “sage advice.”

Take for example the courts. Experts were the ones who came in and said they could put the courts on a maintenance plan instead of purchasing new ones. Experts were also the ones that stepped in when Shingles was looking to relight the recreational facility. While Shingles had originally wanted to buy top-of-the-line lighting in the type he already had, the experts offered up another fixture that would increase the foot candles and reduce the energy intake, in essence decreasing the campus’ overall energy costs. The lights would pay for themselves within 18 months.

As for planning, Shingles has to have his ducks in a row when it comes to updates, especially because those needs sit within the university’s master plan. While some recreation centers have their own funding, Central Michigan’s does not. There’s a long line of needs and Shingles has to get in that line, making sure he plans by looking at trends and assessing what people like and want through surveys, visits to other facilities and attending conferences like NIRSHA.

In the end it comes down to three words: priorities, planning and experts. “These are renovation strategies that can yield great results,” said Shingles.

Heather Hartmann is a staff writer for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at heather@peakemedia.com.

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