Maybe your 2016 includes planning an indoor sports facility – it’s a great goal and, once completed, an indoor facility can increase the value of your institution immeasurably. Whether you’re thinking of a field house, a fitness center, a gymnasium or even a more complex multipurpose sports center, there’s no doubt that it will add a great deal to your sports landscape.

All good construction starts with a good plan. The purpose of this article is to walk you through the first aspect of that plan: Assembling the correct team that will guide you through the design phase, and creating the prospectus the team can use in order to bring the vision to life in construction.

The design professional

Securing the services of a licensed design professional should be your first call. In fact, make that a licensed design professional with sports-specific expertise.

It’s easy to start doing research by going to Google, but this is a case where the best course of action is the old-school method of actually asking colleagues for recommendations. Find out who has built or renovated their athletic facilities recently. Who did they use? Was that person, or firm, easy to work with? Did they take time to find out what was needed? Did they work to help create a design that stayed within the budget?

Find out whether the designer, or design firm, is a member of any professional associations. And if you’re unable to get a recommendation from colleagues, those professional associations may be able to point you in the right direction. The American Sports Builders Association (, for example, has an online directory of its members, including design professionals. You can also check business-to-business publications that serve the sports facility trade.

The design professional will be a key member of the team. He or she will shepherd the project through this important design phase, and can help you understand other aspects as well, including regulatory issues, permitting and more issues that are crucial to the process. Make sure your design professional understands completely the rules of the specific sport (or sports) the facility will be hosting. Some design professionals will recommend consultants with sport-specific expertise for certain aspects of the project.

Other members of the team

A well-executed facility is the result of a good planning team. Because of the variety of available sports surfaces, their differences in performance and the conflicting needs of diverse sports and activities, choosing the best surfaces for any facility may involve not just a design professional, but consultants and specialty contractors.

Manufacturers and suppliers also can be an important part of the planning team – no one knows their products better and no one has more test data or other information on how their products perform over the long term. Many manufacturers provide useful educational materials and/or programs to help owners make good choices in planning their facilities.

If a contractor has been chosen, that person should be part of the team as well. (As with the design professional, find a contractor with experience in sports facilities.)

Creating the prospectus

This document should describe what you have in mind as fully as possible. That means it should answer the following questions:

  • What sports or activities will take place in the facility – basketball, volleyball, racquetball, tennis, cardio, aerobics, walking/jogging, weight training or other fitness activities? The specific sports to be played will determine the appropriate performance characteristics for flooring systems, the necessary equipment to be included, the size and orientation of various courts or play areas, the amount and location of spectator seating, and numerous other aspects of the design.
  • If the facility will host a variety of activities, which will there be more of?
  • Does one activity or sport have priority? This may become an issue if several sports will be using the same area, and the surfacing needs to differ for each sport.
  • What age groups typically will use the building? Children in elementary schools have different safety and performance needs compared to competitive athletes.
  • How many people will use the facility? Will this number vary throughout the year, or is it expected to remain consistent?
  • At what level will these sports be played? The level of competition will determine which governing body or bodies and, therefore, which rules will prevail. These rules may specify the necessary dimensions for courts or game fields, the size of required overrun areas, performance characteristics for flooring systems and other details of construction.
  • Will your population include those with special needs, such as individuals with wheelchairs or walkers? While all new buildings must conform to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a facility that is likely to host many athletes and spectators with special needs may require further accommodations.
  • Many international standards-setting organizations, such as ASTM International (ASTM), Deutsches Institute für Normung (DIN) and European Norms (EN), have established guidelines for force reduction. Will you be interested in meeting any of these voluntary guidelines?
  • Will separate areas be provided for individual sports? If not, which sports will share which areas? For example, will a jogging or running track surround some of the playing areas? If track competition will be hosted, which field events are planned and which of them, if any, will be placed inside the track?
  • Given the sporting uses planned, what will be the need for storage for items such as wrestling mats, portable baskets and other sports equipment?
  • What will be the requirements for lighting and noise attenuation?
  • Non-athletic uses also should be considered. What kind of events will be hosted in the facility when it’s not being used for competitive events? Will the building be used for dances, food service, assemblies or holiday programs? Will trade shows and concerts also be on the agenda?
  • What do you know about the site conditions? Where is the water table? What is the likelihood of flooding? You’ll also want to have ready information on your climate and expectations for HVAC systems.

Ask the right questions!

One thing your planning team will want to know is … everything! So come into the project with a concrete idea of what you’re looking for. Planning involves a number of steps. While all of these steps are important, the most important aspect of planning is developing a thorough understanding of how the indoor facility you want to construct will be used.

Your actual prospectus may answer other, more specific questions, based on your needs.

This prospectus should contain other essential information, such as a projected timeline and any initial budget concepts. It should also list the main point of contact (whether that is you or someone else) so that questions are always directed to the same individual.

Start working

What’s the difference between a project that moves forward and one that lays fallow on the drawing board? The amount of initiative the contact person is willing to take. Assemble your prospectus and, while you’re at it, make those calls to your colleagues. By the time you have potential candidates to interview for your team, you’ll have solid information to give them, and you’ll be on your way to turning your vision into reality.