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Plenty of sports in one place


A wide range of sports on offer is welcomed in many places and for this reason, in many cities and communities a large number of sporting possibilities are available. An increasing number of communities however, are tending away from many single sports facilities distributed over the whole city area and towards large sport and exercise areas installed at central locations. Whether these are called sports parks, multi-functional sports facilities or sports centres, they all provide many different kinds of sporting activities. Playing fields and public parks are also often included in the planning. Sports parks provide advantages not only for athletes, but also for community administration.

The goal of sport planning in most communities is to provide many different sports locations. Many facilities have often been located in the same sport for many years; football pitches at club locations on the outskirts of towns or field athletic pitches and sports halls near schools. Construction of new sports facilities often involves many criteria which need to be satisfied, the lowest possible noise levels on the one hand, for example but the largest possible catchment area for possible users on the other. The idea of scattering sports grounds over the whole city area may therefore seem obvious, so that benefits and burden are distributed as evenly as possible.

What may appear logical at first glance however, often involves many disadvantages. Single sports facilities at individual locations usually provide only one-sided possibilities for use while care and maintenance are more difficult for municipal operators to organise. In addition, there is the problem of increasing urban redensification: The land, on which the sports facilities are built, is attractive as construction land and is often released for use by investors, in the best case, with alternative or replacement facilities built on the city fringe. This is why there is an increasing trend in many communities towards creation of sports parks – sport and exercises complexes covering a large area. These provide many diverse opportunities for sporting activities at the same location – for leisure-time hobby sportsmen and women, for club and competition athletes and, in optimal cases, for all of them at the same time. It has been recognised for many years that green areas and hobby sport can be combined well. The fitness trails originating already in the 1970s provided an opportunity for gymnastics during a walk in natural surroundings. Large green parks are usually at the heart of city planning and are popular with citizens. Instead of fitness trails, today we have sports places for amateur and hobby athletes. Examples of these are exercise or motoric circuits, calisthenics parks, pump or roll tracks. Green parks and sports areas are usually designed together during the planning phase so that both sports fans and those people looking to relax are both satisfied. Naturally, playing fields and playgrounds must also be available in the green parks.

The sports complex Schildesche in Bielefeld, Germany, for example, offers a comprehensive range of sporting opportunities. These include trend sports such as bike polo and slacklining as well as providing room for boules or BMX, roller and inline skaters. Many people looking for exercise opportunities can find space here in natural surroundings. Before renovation of the part, focus was put only on play areas and football. After conversion into a pure sport and leisure-time park with a range of modern sports available, a clear signal has been given for the future.

Planning in the community of Hemsback in the German region of Baden-Württemberg goes even a step further. Here there is not only a large play, sport and exercise centre resulting from the á-la-Hopp project (a foundation which supports sports facilities for all generations), but there are also other community sports fields in the immediate environment. These include among other things, two artificial turf pitches (large and small), a field and track athletics stadium, a sports hall, tennis pitches, a half-pipe, inline hockey and basketball pitch all right next to each other. The playing fields are also available for use by hobby athletes outside the club training times.

Another successful example is the Jahnpark in Bad Hersfeld (Germany). Here there are an artificial turf pitch, small playing fields, a mini-golf course, beach volleyball pitches, a high-ropes course, boccia pitch, driving courses, running track and a parcours for the senses which can be used to the same extent by both club and hobby athletes. Along with sports, major accents were placed here on family use.

Sports complexes are also much more common in community urban planning which also generates some advantages for community administration:

1) Maintenance

Maintenance of one large sports facility is significantly easier to organise than many individually located small ones. Many cleaning and maintenance tasks can be completed in one go and expensive cleaning agents can usually be purchased in one order and stored in one central location. Better control can be kept of equipment and fittings and it can be prevented that isolated grounds are neglected. In addition, sports clubs can be included in the maintenance work while at the same time, giving them an opportunity to generate funds (e.g. to open a kiosk).

2) Noise prevention

Noise prevention equipment is not only expensive it also takes up a lot of space and is often not a visual highlight. Large sports facilities and parks are sure to generate noise, but a noise prevention barrier for all sports facilities in one place is always better than many different ones throughout the city area.

3) Infrastructure

Installation of infrastructure around the sports facilities can be much better organised. Individual and small sports facilities are often lacking in parking space while these can be incorporated directly into the central planning of a major project. The same applies to toilets. Renting out areas for small restaurants or catering objects with integrated sports article hire is also interesting and generates funds.

5) A large number of users

Many offers at one location is also a very interesting concept for families. Children can romp and amuse themselves on suitable sporting facilities while their parents can take the opportunity to take part in a sporting activity themselves. In this way, new user groups are generated, particularly for hobby sports, who would otherwise not necessary visit an individual sports centre. This kind of sports facility also becomes a focus for new users. This is not only good for the statistics, but also supports the health of the local population.

5) Upgrading the cityscape

Large sports stadiums not only have a large catchment area, they also make communities more pleasant to live in. The attractive design of a major sports complex can greatly upgrade the townscape and so the city's image, making both new inhabitants and tourists aware of their surroundings.

6) Sustainability and the right of continuance

One individual sports facility can be quickly closed down, demolished, replaced with a new building and forgotten. As already mentioned, play areas and sports fields have suffered for years under urban redensification; and in many cases, protests against one individual demolition project are not sufficiently loud to prevent it. A large sport park, on the other hand, cannot be simply pulled down. It forms an integral part of the cityscape and an integrated infrastructure cannot be easily transferred to a different location. This makes attractive sports and exercise opportunities better protected against economic interests and community cost-saving measures.

These individual points clearly illustrate that large sports complexes have a clear significance in city planning, are attractive for users and the city image and can even help save costs for maintenance and infrastructure. For this reason, it should be considered in many places, whether it would not be better to create this kind of sports complex instead of having various sporting infrastructure spread around the city area. Naturally, this kind of project cannot as a rule be realised overnight, but successfully implemented projects are growing in number and the reasons for this kind of measure are increasingly clear. In this way, it is more than possible that central green parks in the city of the future will provide both room for sport and relaxation. To achieve this, however, todays planners must create the foundation for added value for all of us.



photo: ikps

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