Zach Bisek, AIA, LEED AP

Recreation Revival Part II

Recreation Revival Part II

You may have an idea of what improvements you would like to see in your recreation center, but no plans should be made until a due-diligence assessment of the full facility is completed. Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitor and take a look at your facility, asking the following questions:

Asset Assessment


  • What is the image portrayed by the facility?
  • Do I feel safe during my visit?
  • Is it easy to find and enter the site?
  • Is there a spot to lock up a bike?
  • Is there enough car parking?
  • Do I know where to go once I approach and enter the building?

*Asking these questions helps you understand the vital first impression the facility has on users.


  • What are my impressions when I enter?
  • Am I wowed?
  • Is it clear where to go or to whom I should speak?
  • Did someone greet me?

*Consider the ability of staff to greet and direct patrons as well as control the flow of people. This applies to existing users allowed swift entry and also new members needing assistance. Ensuring great customer service will always provide the largest return on investment.


  • Are corridors well-lit, clean, with appealing colors and design?
  • What, if anything, is on the walls?
  • What programming opportunities are visible as I walk  down the hall?

*From a cost perspective, corridors and hallways are typically wasted space unless they can serve dual purposes. Consider using these spaces as a pre-function meeting area or for designated donor or public art displays. Internal windows or view portals within a corridor are an excellent way to show off the facility while advertising activities and programs.


  • Are the locker rooms clean?
  • Do I have enough privacy?
  • Are lockers and amenities accessible to users of all abilities?
  • Are there any broken lockers, locks or fixtures?

*These changing spaces can be some of the most outdated and unhappy areas of an older facility. The design layout is typically based on an antiquated use model that has not been updated with more-modern privacy standards, ADA accessibility requirements and user-friendly amenities.


  • What are the existing programs offered?
  • How well-attended are classes?
  • When was the last time new programs were added?

*Often, we hear that these spaces — originally intended for great flexibility — never reach the highest utilization because of common issues such as improper floor finish selection (which limits certain activities) or the inability to consistently staff and schedule the room for maximum use.


  • How old is the pool?
  • Does it meet all the recent code changes regarding accessibility, safety and
    water quality?
  • Are primary chemical and supplemental treatment systems up to current
  • Does the air temperature feel comfortable, and is the smell of chloramines
  • Have any of the materials in the room degraded due to rust or excessive moisture?
  • Are the levels of natural and artificial lighting adequate?
  • How loud is it? Can a swim instructor be heard clearly on one side of the
    space while the screaming toddlers are splashing around on the other side?

*Aquatics areas can provide some of the most concerning issues in an existing facility. However, they can also provide some of the most impactful opportunities for improvement. Swimming pools, as well as the overall natatorium envelope, need to be assessed.


  • Are all areas of the building comfortably heated/cooled?
  • Are different areas able to be programmed or controlled individually?
  • Are gymnasium spaces being cooled and lit when not in use?
  • Are newer, more-energy-efficient systems available for water heating,
    lighting, building cooling, etc.?

*Advances in mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems have come a long way in the past 10 to 20 years. Adopting new design strategies or energy-efficient systems seems like a no-brainer for a renovation project. However, they can be difficult to sell if it means forfeiting programming space to stay within budget.

Posted by Zach Bisek, AIA, LEED AP on August 12, 2014 at 03:51pm

Tags: renovation (6), community recreation center (31)

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