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Playing fields for everyone – how an old club field was given a new lease of life

By Stefan Eckl, Institute for Cooperative Planning and Sport Development
(Institut für Kooperative Planung und Sportentwicklung, IKPS), Stuttgart, Germany


The sport and culture community Botnang, located to the north of the city of Stuttgart, is a club with around 1100 members in four sections. The club has its own sports field which lies at the edge of a local park, the Schwarzwildpark, which is popular for a family day out. Before the renovation work the field was rather unattractive. The main football pitch was equipped with synthetic turf but the clay area and children's playground equipment were in very poor shape and therefore, seldom used.

Around ten years ago the club started collecting ideas and planning redevelopment of the site, as Jürgen Setzer, Managing Director of the SKG Botnang, says. Focus of the planning work, which involved all the club sections as well as all members of the blub, was the idea to create a family-friendly and sports field for all generations. This meant changing the character of the facilities and, above all, to bring all members into focus who had previously made no use of the outdoor facilities for their sport activities. A further aspect of the planning work was to make a central meeting point for all members and all sections as the sport activities, above all those carried out indoors were distributed throughout the whole urban district. According to Jürgen Setzer, first experiences with the new sports field have completely fulfilled these expectations and the field has developed into a meeting place for the club members.
Planning was implemented in several steps between June and October 2012. First, financed by the city of Stuttgart, the clay area was demolished and an artificial turf training pitch installed to satisfy the quickly growing numbers of young footballers. Also during this first phase, a synthetic sports surface area and a sand pit were built. The sand are is so large that it includes an approach track and a long-jump pit for school sport along with a beach volleyball pitch. The synthetic sports area is multifunctional for street ball (a basketball net is mounted directly next to the pitch) or for free play for sports such as badminton. A woodchip jogging track (finnenbahn) was installed around the pitches and the playing area. A standard 400m track was consciously avoided during the planning and priority given to the jogging track. This was based on the argument that there would be more amateur or leisure athletes making use of the facilities, the motivation that this would provide and better use by older members. The jogging track is around 450 m long and indirectly lit by the floodlights in winter making all year round use possible. Unlike standard running tracks it is not flat but the topography with hills and slopes increases the training effect. The track is used not only by runners and joggers, but also by football teams for their "warming up" sessions before training or matches – illustrating the suitability of the track for varied training programmes of professional athletes.

The club paid a great deal of attention to promotion of the junior section and the wishes of its members. Right next to the entrance, prominently visible is a so-called pump track where, over a relatively small area, a mountain bike and BMX course has been laid. The target is to cover the hilly course as quickly as possible without pedalling. This pump track has become one of the most popular attractions of the facilities.

Around the club building with changing rooms, sanitary installations and a restaurant with outside seating, further children's equipment was installed. The attractive play area includes a tree and boulder climbing area with spider's web nets. This are will not present a challenge to ambitioned
or experienced freestyle climbers or boulderers but with a jump height of three metres, the boulder is no push over for older children.
According to the club, costs for the Sport Park Himmerreich amounted to around 580,000 Euro. Renovation of the playing fields with sand, artificial turf and finnenbahn cost about 395,000 Euro and was paid for completely by the city of Stuttgart. The remaining costs of about 180,000 Euro were paid by the club. About 45,000 Euro were raised in a donation marathon and were used to finance the children's playing area and climbing park. Further subventions were received from the Württemberg regional sport association and the city of Stuttgart and especially worth a mention is the fact that club members invested around 1000 hours of work installing equipment and helping with the renovation work.

It is remarkable that the playing fields are open to the general public, not just club members, and in particular, the local inhabitants. In this way, the club follows its goal of consciously opening up the urban district and understands itself to be a local factor for bringing people together and in doing so, to fulfil an important social function. To date, according to Jürgen Setzer, the club has had no problems with vandalism. The facilities are so busy that no groups of youngsters can hang around without being noticed. The largest plus seen by Jürgen Setzer is in the benefits now enjoyed by club members. "The members are comfortable here, at last we have a central location for the club where
the whole family can meet. Compared to earlier, we now have real life on the facilities."

Overall, the story illustrates the great readiness of the club to face up to the new changes in sporting reality and to correspondingly adapt not only the club activities, but also the infrastructure available. In addition, the SKG Botnang shows that highly attractive sports facilities suitable for use by the whole family can be created on a relative small area.

About the author:
Dr. Stefan Eckl is Managing Director of the Institute for Cooperative Planning and Sport Development (Institut für Kooperative Planung und Sportentwicklung) in Stuttgart. More information can be found at www.kooperative-planung.de or requested by mail from eckl@kooperative-planung.de
Photos: Stefan Eckl

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