Blog: July 2015
Growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s, a locker room was a cavernous, uncomfortable, smelly public space whose functional design focused less on personal space and more on efficiently serving a large number of people. The average locker room experience was the same for my Dad, and oddly enough, locker rooms did not evolve or improve from his boyhood to mine. In those days, the typical recreation center locker rooms were modeled after High School athletic locker rooms serving the masses for personal hygiene and dressing after a vigorous sport or workout. This “old school” locker room model was accepted as status quo and adapted into recreation centers for decades.Continue
Old school locker rooms may be our heritage, but recreation facility operators know the critical role modern locker rooms play in increasing participation, streamlining operations and enhancing customer experience. This once common place and often forgotten space in the building is now part of progressive business plans driving the design of modern recreation facilities and providing revenue potential. Service-minded professionals recognize the importance of the locker room to the customer, and as a result, ever-evolving and paradigm shifting locker room design is now at the forefront of recreation center planning.
Much discussion about what should be included in a new community recreation center revolves around activity spaces; i.e. how many gyms, how many lanes in the lap pool and how many meeting rooms. The size and quality of these spaces is conceived in great detail. Rarely, however, does the discussion explore the spaces required to support these activities, in particular the variety and quality of the locker rooms. If we take a step back and look at the building program, we should ask “what are the barriers to participation?” After all, civic decision-makers typically seek solutions that can benefit as many citizens as possible. It is one thing to build a terrific activity space, but it’s another to maximize participation in activities and optimize its usefulness. The answers predictably involve location, programming, and fees. Often underestimated is the power of a well-considered locker room experience.
Locker rooms are personal. Very personal. It is your customer’s personal space, and it’s important to your success that your customer feels good about this personal of a space. Happy customers mean a happy bottom line which leads to happy bosses and elected officials. What could possibly go wrong with this logic? Plenty! Often marginalized during the design process, modern locker rooms take thought and commitment throughout the entire design process. Delivering maximum recreation space is often the highest priority and when budgets are challenged, the temptation is to save money by reducing locker room quality. Resist this temptation!
Modern locker rooms accommodate a wide variety of users, are easy to clean, are durable, have ease of maintenance, and of course, are safe. A good architect seeks to understand best practices in these areas while continually looking for innovative improvements. Let’s focus on something really cool, like the next generation of locker room concepts which have recently been built and are currently being tested in Provo, Utah; Olathe, Kansas; and Grapevine, Texas. These examples are living laboratories, testing both incremental refinements and new paradigms. These modern recreation centers explore the concept of personal space with “cabanas.” Cabanas are a series of full-service personal bathrooms adjoining an open community space of individual lockers in a variety of sizes. The key to the cabana concept is their ability to accommodate the widest variety of patrons.
Cabanas are places to coral your three kids while managing beach bags full of towels, dry clothes, shoes, diapers, etc. Cabanas provide patrons with disabilities a convenient and private space with access to all locker room amenities. Cabanas provide an added level of privacy and convenience to patrons recovering from injuries or surgeries, or even accommodate patrons with gender orientation concerns. Active aging members love cabanas because a helper, or aid, can assist them through their personal needs with dignity, even if that assistant is of the opposite sex. A fully-appointed cabana has a shower, toilet, lavatory, baby changing station, dressing bench, hair/hand dryer and enough space for a family to change clothes in privacy. A decade of locker room evolution has dictated that in order for a facility’s locker room to be deemed successful, cabanas must be included.
Let’s examine the locker room’s importance beyond just support space. The modern locker room becomes the heart of the building for the patron. That is why the design and the selection of the materials is so important to the success of the locker room. For example, a well-made locker has materials that do not rust and is clean, inviting, safe, and accessible. The well-made locker is available in many sizes to accommodate a variety of needs.
This same design approach applies to all surfaces of the modern locker room which have to be easy to clean, safe, slip-resistant, and inviting, with ease of access. Beyond all this, patrons will tell you the locker room can make or break their experience in your facility. This statement is the certainty that we must evolve the locker room’s form and function towards the wants and needs of the customer.
We must challenge the locker room concept of the past. The first family changing room was in the East Boulder Recreation Center, which opened in 1992. Today, family rooms are required by building code all over the United States and the modern world. The first family changing room was the answer to a challenge that we could do better. The modern day recreation center cabana takes the family room to the next level and even accommodates multiple generations. When the cost is weighed against the return of satisfied users over time, the return on the investment is obvious.
The cabana concept has been around for two decades or so, making it no longer innovative. What is innovative is how the cabana is synergistic with the concept of a community locker space within a facility. Many facilities currently contain cabanas in conjunction with separate gender-specific locker rooms. Consider the idea that there is no longer a need for cavernous gender-separate, old-school locker rooms when a combination of cabanas and gender-specific restrooms can provide the privacy and function of the old school locker room. Imagine an array of locker selections – from over-sized to accommodate the gear of an entire family to smaller-sized for the single person doing a quick workout – in close proximity to cabanas in a community space that is open and inviting, with natural light and clean air at just the right temperature. It’s a locker room with open views to corridors above, the second floor fitness facility, or the walking track. The second floor activities are visually symbiotic with the locker room below, making the two spaces visually connected and sharing the same air and light. The benefit of a community locker space is it meets the needs of a variety of users in a smaller footprint, thus helping to maximize the facility efficiency.
As social paradigms shift toward services that are specific to the individual’s needs, is there any doubt the recreation locker room will evolve to meet those needs? The smart recreation service provider understands a quality customer experience begins and ends in their personal space. Whether a facility will be new from the ground up or an operator is considering a renovation, the locker room space should be an imperative part of the planning and design. Consider the evolution we’ve seen over the last twenty years and the new innovations the industry is applying to this long-forgotten space when you’re planning your next facility – it’s certainly not your Daddy’s locker room any longer.Hide Full Post
Posted by Mick Massey, RLA on July 31, 2015 at 05:08pm
On Friday, July 24, the Windsor Community Recreation Center expansion project officially broke ground! The event surrounding this momentous occasion was highlighted by a beach theme, large sand pile, and more happy children than you could count on one set of fingers and toes. Melissa Chew, former Windsor Parks, Recreation & Culture Director, kicked off the day’s festivities by introducing and thanking the parties involved in making this project a reality for the Town of Windsor.Continue
Melissa then handed the microphone to Ken Bennett, Chair of the Parks, Recreation, & Culture Advisory Board who provided the crowd with a brief history of the project. In February 2012, the Town of Windsor commissioned BRS, GreenPlay LLC, and Water Technology, Inc. to analyze options for the expansion of the Windsor Community Recreation Center. Over the course of the feasibility study, the team studied two possible configurations, conceptual cost and detailed needs for each of the program areas.
Once complete, the addition will include a natatorium, with leisure pool, three-lane lap pool, and water slide; child watch room; party rooms; weight/fitness room; aerobics room; and an auxiliary gym. In addition, site improvements consist of increased parking area, a sun deck, and tot lot.
Finally, the big moment arrived! In line with the true spirit of Parks and Recreation, the children joined right in to help the adults with the ceremonious turning of the first sod. It’s hard to believe there will a natatorium in this same spot by September next year!
Everyone enjoyed the celebration and the time spent with old friends. Pictured below are Dave Hammel (BRS), Melissa Chew (Windsor), Steve Blackburn (BRS), Jim Pinkard (Pinkard Construction), and Windsor Town Manager Kelly Arnold. Some of these folks have been working together for a few decades. I know, I know, you’re wondering how it can possibly be true when each of them isn’t a day over 35!
Most importantly, the beach party was a success with hot dogs, snow cones, and happy kids! It was an honor to participate in this special occasion. It’s clients like ours who make us excited to get up and come to work at BRS each day!
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Posted on July 31, 2015 at 04:54pm
Friday afternoon began BRS’s 3rd annual camping trip. Our camping veteran and leader, Chuck, arrived first to start establishing camp at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.Continue
The first night we had 24 people and 5 dogs join us for dinner, festivities and camping. David prepared an excellent stew using only canned ingredients ranging from hominy to lentils. This Hillbilly Stew was followed by campfire roasted bananas topped with cinnamon, sugar and chocolate chips. Needless to say, everyone was satisfied.
Friday evening brought clear skies and a beautiful starry night. Some of us even saw a shooting star! We gathered around the campfire to tell stories, riddles and BRS trivia before heading off to bed. What are the first names of the three founding partners of BRS? Don, Ron and Russ!
Saturday morning we each made an “omelet in a bag” for breakfast. After 15 minutes in boiling water, our Ziploc bag egg mixture was ready to be eaten on its own or in a tortilla! As some campers left and more campers arrived, a group took off for the trail head to visit Panorama Point. The hike was full of beautiful wild flowers, and the view was worth every step. When we returned to camp, the site was full of latest day-visit arrivals and hot dogs and hamburgers were on the grill. A little bit of afternoon rain didn’t scare anyone away, and we soon gathered back around the campfire for Chuck’s chuck roast and grilled vegetables.
After more stories and a color-changing campfire, we packed up the food and headed to bed. Sunday morning we began to break down camp while Bill and his son prepared a delicious breakfast casserole. With our stomachs full and the campsite cleared, we parted ways and considered BRS’s third camping trip a success!
Posted by Christine Harwood, LEED AP BD+C on July 31, 2015 at 04:23pm
The definition of a Texas Tale is a story with unbelievable elements, exaggeration, and innuendo related as if it were factual. The following Texas Tale could be called an exaggeration by some and quite factual by others, either way, the following events happened recently in Grapevine, Texas.Continue
In 1845 the Republic of Texas joined the Unites States as the 28th state, and as a result, re-drew the lines of statehood. This action caused the young Lone Star State to withdraw from Colorado, taking the shape you recognize today. Soon after, a mysterious affliction called Colorado-itis ran rampant, afflicting Texans for decades with maladies such as a crazed zombie-like need to escape the Texas heat by migrating back to the cool Rocky Mountains, or dazed, confused, rambling speech with recognizable words like “fresh powder” and “ski bum” muttered by Texans.
Fast forward several decades and Texans continued to frequent Colorado. Beginning in 1989, they visited the state, and more specifically the Denver Metro area, to find the best of the best in recreation facility design and park planning. Today, Texas communities are branding themselves through the same quality of life amenities these tours highlighted for them. They are finding that communities set themselves apart by having great places to live and municipal buildings which reflect their individuality.
BRS Architecture officially arrived in Texas almost 10 years ago, when we completed a study for the expansion of The Woodlands Recreation Center. We continued to provide community lifestyle expertise and design services to communities in Texas with the completion of the North Richland Hills Library and the City of Richardson’s Huffhines Recreation Center and Ball Field projects. With The REC of Grapevine and Southlake Community Recreation and Senior Center under construction, along with 10 other projects on the boards, it was time for BRS Architecture to open up a permanent location in Texas. So much of our current work is focused in the DFW area, leading BRS to select the burgeoning community of Grapevine to establish Texas roots and continue to provide the best service to our clients.
As the Texas Tale would go, on April 25, 2015, history reversed itself when Colorado returned to Texas, at 129 South Main Street in Grapevine, with the official BRS Architecture Texas Open House event. Over 60 friends and colleagues celebrated this momentous occasion with BRS partners and staff. Thank you to all of you who came out to join the celebration, and we look forward to your next visit when we can continue our Texas Tale by writing new chapters with old friends, colleagues, allied partners, and new clients!
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Posted by Mick Massey, RLA on July 2, 2015 at 04:24pm
Color and graphics are compelling design elements which establish character and identity by developing a story unique to each facility. Whether you’re designing a new facility from the ground up or looking to renovate or update an existing one, attention to interior details of your facility will help ensure success.Continue
Customizing spaces through the use of color and interpretive imagery specific to the location establishes a connection between patrons and the facility. Not only do these elements create a visual connection, but they evoke particular feelings and emotions, establishing a visceral connection as well. When patrons feel a connection to the building, they will choose to return time and time again. Following are six ways in which simple color and graphic concepts can be used to define and enhance the design of your facility:
NUMBER 1: COLOR
Color shapes environments and creates specific feelings or attitudes. Highly-saturated and brilliant colors are successfully applied in the high-energy, high-activity fitness areas at Kroc Suisun.
Color is also a communication device. The brightly-colored walls at Olathe Community Center serve as an effective wayfinding tool, guiding people through the building by marking circulation and identifying destinations.
The graphic application of color on large wall areas of gyms and natatoriums is a striking and economical way to visually enliven and energize large-volume spaces and expansive walls. The application of painted sound absorption panels on walls of the gymnasium at Kroc Salem creates colorful, simple graphic patterning.
NUMBER 2: ICONIC ELEMENTS
In almost every facility location, there are easily recognizable and identifiable natural or cultural elements. This kind of connection is important because it bolsters the idea of a facility belonging to a particular location and creates a place in which the community comes together to socialize and recreate. For example at Kroc Coeur d’Alene, the tamarack larch is an indigenous tree to the region, and the branch structure of this tree became the inspiration for the all of the detailing in the facility.
NUMBER 3: PHOTOGRAPHIC IMAGES
The use of large format digital prints is another method to add color and graphic imagery to facility spaces. At the Paul Derda Recreation Center in Broomfield, Colorado, the design concept for the project was where the mountains meet the plains. A local photographer’s images of the mountains and the plains reinforces this design concept in large images on the wall in the natatorium and the lobby.
NUMBER 4: THEMES
Theming in a facility, and particularly in those areas focused toward children, is a method for successfully engaging different age groups. The child watch area at Gypsum Recreation Center is airplane themed.
NUMBER 5: ACTIVITY GRAPHICS
Recreation Centers are hubs of activity and the actions and movements created as a result make perfect design features within a facility. Kroc Augusta is an example of using large images of water elements and swimmers to enhance the interiors of the natatorium.
NUMBER 6: HISTORICAL ELEMENTS
Incorporating a community’s history is a simple and direct way to link the past and the present by highlighting locations, events and people that have shaped them. These graphics can be informative, educational, emotional and decorative but are appreciated by visitors and locals alike. Kroc Green Bay features a history wall to connect the building back to the community.
Color and graphics are great design tools to help shape spaces and create unique and expressive facilities that truly represent their location. It’s never too early or too late in the process to consider the interior design elements of your facility as an imperative part of its success. Whether you have a large budget or are looking for an economical solution, some simple graphics and strategically placed color will not only help to draw patrons into your facility and navigate them throughout, but also serve to establish a connection between them, encouraging their likely return.Hide Full Post
Posted by Marcia Hocevar on July 2, 2015 at 02:35pm
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