Ask the Expert: Renovations


The expert advice to answer your most pressing questions. This month, Colleen McKenna, the director at CannonDesign’s sports, recreation and wellness practice, shares on renovations.

When looking to start a renovation, what are the top three things you take into consideration?

Colleen McKenna: There’s no singular recipe for successful renovation projects, but here are three steps that should inform essentially all such efforts:

Know Your Resources: University and campus leadership should execute a facility audit of the building to fully understand its physical condition. This will bring to light any deficiencies, and help inform strategy and prioritize investments.

Know Your Plan: Before beginning a renovation project, campus rec leadership should talk to their campus architect or planner. This way they can ensure all efforts are connected to campus masterplans and visions for the future.

Define Stakeholders: Today’s recreation centers can bring together all different teams and departments in exciting new ways. It’s important to define all the stakeholders who will help shape the renovation to ensure their voices are heard from Day One.

What makes a renovation successful?

CM: This answer is different for every institution as it really comes down to the question, “Does the facility achieve its target goals?” At a high level, when institutions create buildings and spaces that empower students, look beautiful, respect the environment, and meet all budget and schedule targets, those are great ways to measure success.

What is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to overseeing renovations?

CM: The biggest challenge is prioritization. There will no doubt be numerous areas and systems that require updates. The key is to work with a team that takes time to clearly think through the process and prioritization, and comes up with a strategy that can lead to success.

What is one piece of advice you’d give when it comes to renovations?

CM: Engage students. Renovations are just as exciting as new builds for students. Take time to make sure their ideas are heard. Responding to their specific needs and wants will push campus recreation departments closer to success.

Heather Hartmann
Heather Hartmann is the editor for Campus Rec Magazine. She can be reached at

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