New Trends in Facilities

March 25, 2016

As the economy has started to rebound, high school and college athletic departments have found themselves looking to renovate and modernize their facilities—yet do it without breaking the bank. Some of the biggest trends to emerge recently include efficiency, safety, and promotion of school spirit or sponsorship.

It’s a familiar major athletic department concern: How can you maximize time and space when you have several teams using the same area? “The big question in athletic renovation is, ‘How can you make life easier by allowing coaches/staff to quickly and easily set up and change over equipment?’” says Dan Powell, National Sales Manager for Porter Athletic. “Traditionally, when you wanted to divide up a court, or raise and lower basketball backstops, you would go around to separate, multiple key switches and stand there while operating a piece of equipment. Now, advanced technology makes that easier.

“For example, our Powr-Touch 5.0 wireless control system uses a tablet interface, and it allows the user to control multiple pieces of equipment— basketball hoops, ceiling-supported structures, dividers—simultaneously without having to walk around to each key switch,” he continues. “A school might need to switch from P.E. classes where divider curtains are in place to setting up for an indoor practice. Now, instead of a coach needing to spend 15 minutes walking around getting everything set up, an entire multicourt facility can be changed over in only a few minutes. That not only gives each team more practice time, but allows athletic departments to schedule more teams in that space over the course of a day.”

The freedom of movement offered by using a system like the Powr-Touch 5.0 on a tablet also means positive things for safety. “At K-12 facilities especially, you’re potentially going to have kids running around in your gym during the court changeovers,” Powell says. “And if you’re standing next to a wall holding a key switch, it’s difficult for you to see someone on the other side of a divider curtain, where it is set to raise into the ceiling. The ability to walk into those areas with the Powr-Touch 5.0 and make sure everyone is safe and clear from the moving equipment is paramount.”

In addition to the practical goals of being efficient and safety-conscious, Powell says a third big trend is schools looking to maximize the branding potential of their facilities. “We’re receiving many calls from schools that want to put their name, logo, and mascot or the name and logo of a sponsor or advertiser on a highly-visible surface in their facility,” he says. “Some of the most common areas include the wall padding of their basketball court, or the divider curtains. Schools are willing to invest in these modest upgrades and aspects of renovation because it adds to the ambience of a gymnasium, and it’s often a source of school pride.”

While these changes seem small, Powell says the key trend in facility renovation isn’t that bigger is better, but that it’s important to fit the equipment to your needs. “The biggest mistake we see is that schools believe that because there are many high-end equipment options available, they need to have them installed,” he says. “But as an AD/coach you always want to ask yourself: ‘Who’s going to be using this space?’ If you’re only going to be hosting a few recreational basketball games, you may not need the competition-style offerings manufacturers have. Instead, it might make more sense to select the appropriate style or level for your equipment structure to something more basic, but powdercoat it with your school colors.”

The trend away from full-scale upgrades has been going on for several years now. “I think athletic directors are looking at the cost of renovating versus the demo and new construction addition of an athletic facility—not only in terms of out-of-pocket expenses, but what it means to not have a facility to use for several months—and they realize that’s not always the way to go,” says Powell. “Instead, they’re evaluating and asking, ‘What older pieces of equipment can I replace to increase the safety aspect, as well as spruce up my facility, like a support structure, a basketball goal, or adding a logo to the gym wall padding? How can I make gymnasium operations more efficient?’ It’s cost-effective, and it pays off.”

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