by Jay Connolly
Building a new gymnasium, athletic center, or multipurpose space is a major capital improvement project for any school, institution, or business. For satisfying long-term results, the planning and design phase must focus heavily on ensuring the longevity of your structure while accounting for all potential uses of the space. Having built athletic centers for businesses such as Bass River Tennis Club and Danvers Indoor Sports, as well as for schools such as New England Academy, Covenant Christian Academy, and Governor’s Academy, Connolly Brothers has gained significant insight into the questions and factors that should be addressed at the outset.
Making sure your athletic center or multipurpose space withstands the test of time begins with careful consideration of the facility’s roof. In our northeastern U.S. region, exploring roof systems that will be adequate for winter snow load is critical. HVAC and flooring are also important components to evaluate in the planning and design phase. Many educational institutions are drawn to traditional glossy maple wood flooring with the school’s logo. Such a choice is best paired with a high-quality HVAC system, as humidity control is imperative with wooden gym flooring. Without a proper HVAC plan in place, moisture can cause gym floors to buckle. Temperature control in athletic centers, gyms, and large multipurpose spaces can be complicated given the amount of cubic space involved. In our region, some may opt for a heat-only approach, using destratification fans to push heat downward during the winter.
Clear heights are another important question to address. If the facility will house indoor sports other than basketball – for instance, volleyball – more clear space will be necessary, which may enable additional opportunities. For example, New England Academy chose to use this additional space to add an elevated track for year-round running. Remember to consider your technical setup as well. While many vendors offer Wi-Fi-compatible lighting controls, digital screens, and audio, a hardwired system may be advisable if you will be using the space for events that must be internet outage-proof.
The most crucial factor to consider when planning and designing a new athletic facility is your organization’s full scope of intended usage. Beyond locker rooms, most modern athletic centers now also include training and physical rehabilitation spaces. If this new space will be used for sports, graduation ceremonies, band camp, etc., be sure to envision what each of those events will look and feel like before finalizing your design. For instance, if the space will host musical, dance, or dramatic productions in situations where a traditional theater is not possible, modern performance lighting systems, comfortable seating, a video screen-style scoreboard capable of displaying any video feed (rather than just a score), and especially retractable partitions will typically be well worth the equipment investment.
There are many more factors to examine so it is best to reach out, as early as possible, to a planning, design, and construction partner that can help you realize the best possible athletic center, gym, or multipurpose space for your organization’s budget and needs.
Jay Connolly is the president of Connolly Brothers, Inc.