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15.04.2021 - Ausgabe: 2/2021

A multitude of sports in one place – multi-purpose sports facilities

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© sandsun / stock.adobe.com

“Multi-purpose” – this may sound like a major technical challenge, but when it comes to sports facility planning, it simply means that it is possible to engage in a wide range of sports and physical activities on the respective sports facility. Nonetheless, multi-purpose sports complexes will play an important role in the sports infrastructure of the future, especially in order to accommodate the growing number of sports and exercise trends as well as inner-city infill development.

As early as 2014, the Düsseldorf City Council decided to invest annually in the construction of multi-purpose sports facilities for more than 10 years. A survey of the population had shown that a large number of citizens engage in physical activities individually and outside of organised sports. The city was determined to respond to this development. Since then, a new multi-purpose sports complex has been built every year – always in a different district. Each location accommodates different types of sports in order to provide as many active citizens as possible with a place to exercise. So far, this has led to the construction of several attractive complexes.

The concept of a “multi-purpose sports facility” may sound complicated in principle, but in practice it can be quite simple. For example, a simple smooth concrete surface, a flat synthetic surface or a meadow are in principle already multi-purpose sports surfaces. When the Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin was opened in 2008, athletes from different sports could soon be seen using the huge area – tar, concrete and green spaces – for their activities. Spaces are needed to be able to do sports – many sports enthusiasts who prefer certain types of sport and forms of exercise are already satisfied with such “simple” solutions.

However, such simple areas are of course not a panacea, but only part of the solution. A multi-purpose sports facility should also allow for more complex sports. A small football pitch with basketball hoops, for instance, where you can perhaps also stretch a net to play tennis, badminton or volleyball. Or an exercise area with fitness equipment, calisthenics, parkour elements, and a climbing area. During the planning phase, it is important to consider which forms of sport and exercise can best be combined. The ideal solution would of course be to have a designed area that offers as many opportunities as possible to engage in physical activity at the same time. However, all-in-one facilities suitable for every purpose are always most sought-after. One should, however, not simply look at what can be combined well, but rather take into account the wishes of the potential athletes. After all, what use is the best multi-purpose sports facility if no-one uses it because the sports opportunities on offer do not meet with sufficient interest? 

Multifunctionality does not necessarily have to focus on a single sports area. Many sports areas in a central location also constitute a multi-purpose sports facility. If a pump track and the already described roller sports arena are installed next to the skate park, then you also have many options combined in one large facility. Sports parks are hence also multifunctional, even if the individual areas may not necessarily be so. The decisive advantage in this case is the use of a common infrastructure. If parking spaces, spectator areas, sanitary facilities, access routes and walkways etc. can be used by many sports areas at the same time, then this is also very effective. A sports facility may be even further enhanced by this: many different athletes in one place not only attract more spectators and accompanying persons, but also potential interested parties, for example for a central kiosk or café. Thus, the multi-purpose sports facility is quickly becoming a social hub of the city. And there are further advantages: large multi-purpose sports facilities are not so easily shut down for other construction projects, and they have a high profile and attract significantly more attention due to their sheer size. And unlike “compact” multi-purpose facilities – i.e. several sports on the same site – the different athletes do not get in each other’s way when practising their respective sports. Many of us will probably still recall this familiar situation from our teenage years: when the ball is rolling in the football cage, the basketball players are left behind. As soon as each group has a facility of its own next to that of the others, then they all get their money’s worth and somehow they are still together because of the proximity.

Multifunctionality is nothing new – it has been common practice in most municipal sports halls and gymnasiums for decades. Schools and clubs share the halls for dozens of different sports, ranging from indoor handball to rhythmic gymnastics. This only works, however, because the sports and school authorities – often a joint municipal authority – draw up a fixed utilisation and booking plan, which then forms the basis for all of them. And that in turn only works if schools and clubs are the main users. However, if other users or even individual athletes join in, such a system can hardly work. For this reason, Bernard Kössler from the Hamburg Sports Federation warns in his article “Multifunktionale Sport- und Bewegungsräume” (Multi-purpose Sports and Exercise Spaces) in the current DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation) publication “Sport- und Bewegungsräume der Zukunft“ (Sports and Exercise Spaces of the Future) (https://cdn.dosb.de/alter_Datenbestand/fm-dosb/arbeitsfelder/umwelt-sportstaetten/Veroeffentlichungen/Sport-_und_Bewegungsraeume_der_Zukunft_Ansicht.pdf) that multifunctionality should only be used where it makes sense to do so. This may be the case if facilities are used for activities other than sports. Or if a public sports facility can be used by clubs and individual athletes without prioritisation. Who / which sport has priority? A sound organisational structure is also essential for the management of multi-purpose sports facilities if clubs are to use them as well. However, this should not deter anyone from building appropriate facilities. 

The following objectives must already be in place at the planning stage:  

  1. To allow for a wide range of sports 
  2. To achieve the highest possible utilisation rate of the sports facility  
  3. To enable as many athletes as possible to engage in their sporting activities - preferably at the same time
  4. To encourage as many people as possible to engage in sports and exercise 
  5. To create an attractive place that, in addition to being a sports venue, also has a high amenity value 

All of this sounds quite logical, but in combination it makes things rather difficult and a challenge. And a multi-purpose sports facility is not the ideal solution in every case. The right conditions have to be in place, e.g. there have to be different groups of athletes and there must be a demand for the planned sports facilities. In sports planning, multi-purpose sports facilities should therefore complement the range of facilities wherever possible, but should not be the basis for the construction of every sports facility. If a football pitch is used by one or more clubs, it is usually already more than well utilised, especially in urban areas. If other sports areas were to be established on the site, conflicts would be inevitable. It has to be the right mix; one sports must not be too dominant, otherwise it doesn’t work out. The variant of having several facilities in one place can also soon prove to be unsuitable. For example, if a single facility is overcrowded and the users switch to other facilities. It therefore makes sense to carry out a survey beforehand to identify local sports interests. Then the size of the individual sports facilities can be adapted to the number of potential users.

Multi-purpose sports facilities offer a wide range of sports opportunities and, through sound planning, can significantly expand the range of sports on offer and attract more athletes. However, the whole project must be sensible and properly planned, and for this, tools such as participation are essential.

TT

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