Gym Dandy: Multipurpose Activity Courts for community recreation

Flexibility is the name of the game

June 1st, 2015

In today's community recreation facilities, flexibility is the name of the game. In an effort to provide services to every age and interest group while still remaining responsible to their bottom lines, Parks and Recreation professionals have focused on stretching programming, not square footages.

As a result, a popular recreation solution on college campuses is now making its way into communities around the country. Multipurpose Activity Courts, or MACs, provide cost-effective flexibility and allow for an almost-unlimited number of activities to take place under a single roof. Despite its multitude of uses, the concept behind a MAC is relatively simple: a synthetic flooring, ringed by a dasher board and equipped with floor-to-ceiling netting in order to accommodate sports from soccer to hockey, as well as social events, like trade shows. This extreme flexibility allows MACs to be used more often during the year and hold a larger variety of events, which translates into additional revenues without the need for additional staff and larger operating funds. For example, a traditional basketball court will host a few games a week; while a MAC can go from basketball to volleyball and then to badminton, all in the same day.

In a new facility, the integration of a MAC, or a modified version of one, needs to be considered during the programming or planning phase. As the major component of a MAC is flexibility, accommodating such requires space to be thought about in terms of sizing and flooring. A MAC should be sized to accommodate various sports courts within a larger volume, but is usually designed with the largest typical indoor court sizes in mind: a roller/floor hockey rink, with layouts for a basketball court, multiple volleyball courts, and other sports within it. These spaces will often be dividable into two or more rooms with large seating capacities for performance events.

Though a MAC flooring surface may not have the ultimate performance characteristics of all its intended host activities, it’s versatility lends itself to extreme flexibility and easy maintenance. While a typical flooring for a MAC court does not offer the grip and bounce of a wood floor that is desired for sports such as volleyball or basketball, it does however provide the ability for indoor hockey biscuits to glide smoothly across the floor, the slightly softer surface that would be desired for indoor soccer, and the ease of cleanup that would be essential if the space were to be used to host a food fair. As plenty of people will still opt for the more traditional gymnasium, if given the choice between the two, so some centers will maintain a more typical basketball gymnasium with a hardwood floor and add on a smaller MAC for other sports. However, due to the nature of the non-league or performance nature of most MAC activities, this is often a compromise that owners and users can live with.

Another option for a MAC to improve its flexibility is the use of a removable flooring option. In this case, the subfloor is made of concrete, and various flooring options are stored nearby. This allows for situations where sand could be loaded onto the concrete for a volleyball tournament, and then cleared away for turf to be rolled out. Extreme flexibility!

For many communities, a true MAC offers too many options, so adapted versions are also available. Some will provide wood flooring with striping for tennis, volleyball, badminton, and basketball, or removable turf areas with netting next to wood basketball courts. No matter what the end result, flexible facilities help Parks and Recreation professionals provide the most “bang for their buck” for whatever sports come their way.

Source: By Beau LaCroix, JLG Architects

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