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The family-friendly sports field – a flash in the pan or evergreen?
Since the mid 1990s, the family-friendly sports fields, with its trend towards multi-functionality and offers for all generations, has gained an important place in the varied field of sport and exercise areas. Throughout Germany, facilities for club sport but also those suitable for informal sport, communication, leisure time, relaxation and play have been planned, designed and built. The main feature during planning is the inclusion of many people involved. Future users, local experts, people affected and representatives of social groups are included in the planning process at an early date in order to create facilities well suited to all requirements and to ensure good acceptance by the population. To date, however, these facilities have rarely been evaluated.
Who makes use of the facilities? Can more than one generation really be found there? And does the attraction of this kind of facility decline over time? How sustainable are these facilities really?
A recent study carried out in cooperation work between the German institute for cooperative planning and sport development (ikps, Institut für Kooperative Planung und Sportentwicklung) and the regional sports association of Hesse, (lsbh, Landessportbund Hessen) looked into this question in depth. In the JahnPark in Bad Hersfeld, in the Hesse region of Germany, visitors were already questioned for a second time on their habits in using the park, and the results obtained were compared to the same information gained in 2002. One point was very clear: The JahnPark continues to be an attractive local leisure and exercise area for numerous groups and is in no way a flash in the plan.
JahnPark, Bad Hersfeld, Germany
The JahnPark includes both a synthetic turf football pitch and a recreational area of about the same size. Along with a 110-metre sprint track, other athletic facilities and a smaller plying field, there is also a trend-sport area with basketball hoops, beach volleyball pitches, a funbox, a skate park and an asphalted area for inline-hockey which can be iced over to form a rink in winter. In addition there is also a wide range of activities for infants and small children – a barefoot path and a sound forest as well as a climbing forest and a balance course can be found here along with a green classroom belonging to the neighbouring school. This year the school yard was renovated to promote exercise and integrated into the edge of the JahnPark. The clubhouse with kiosk and market square with asphalt curling and a boules pitch forms a further area including a no-charge mini-golf course and the whole park is rounded off with a finnbahn running track of wood chips.
After opening of the facilities around ten years ago, it was well used by young people. Today younger children and, above all, senior citizens have become major users visiting the JahnPark several times each week for regular exercise activities. This means that utilisation by different age groups, and therefore social control, is ensured at practically all times.
This group of regular users is supplemented by a group of people who use the JahnPark as an attractive excursion destination, for example at weekends. They are generally not from the city which means that they travel quite long distances to get to the JahnPark and value the different possibilities it offers. Girls and young ladies, who are generally rarely seen at traditional sports facilities, are just as drawn to the attractions of the JahnPark as boys and young men. For some areas of the park, the study even showed stronger frequentation by girls than by men. This would prove that the wide range of attractions in the JahnPark ensure balanced use by both boys and girls.
In the last few years a pleasing increase in park users with a migration background has been determined. The JahnPark appears to only to be attractive to different generations but also to have a positive effect with regard to integration and to play an important role in the co-habitation of the population in Bad Hersfeld.
Furthermore, the periods of use of the visitors, which in some cases are very long, allow it to be assumed that the JahnPark is not only a well-used sport and exercise facility, but also an attractive meeting place for recreation and leisure time.
Over the years, the JahnPark in Bad Hersfeld has transformed into an attractive sport and meeting place which the town can no longer do without and which is well known throughout the region as an attractive excursion destination. It is obvious that the family-friendly sports field is and will remain an evergreen.
Maren Reyer, is a sport science graduate and scientific employee with the institute of cooperative planning and sport development in Stuttgart, Germany. (Sportwissenschaftlerin und wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin beim Institut für Kooperative Planung und Sportentwicklung).
She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org