From the arena to sport and leisure facilities for everyone

Dr. Stefan Eckl

From the arena to sport and leisure facilities for everyone

Based on the currently changing demand for sport and social changes, the question arises of how these regulation conforming facilities can be further developed and adjusted to suit future requirements of leisure sports and the ageing of the population.

Until the 1990s, sport was considered a perfect example of clarity and straightforwardness. Sports facilities were dominated (and are still dominated) by complexes oriented functionally towards the demands of school and club sports and designed with specific sports in mind. In general, sports fields in Germany are strongly characterised by compliance with regulations and suitability for competitive sport.
Over the last years however, sport in general has undergone strong differentiation. New types and kinds of sport outside the classical genres have been created, public areas are enjoying increasing use for sport and exercise and the number of active athletes in competitive sport is dropping due to demographic changes. This poses the question of whether existing (competitive) sports can be adapted to suit the new circumstances and what new sports facilities should entail.
This topic was taken up in the field of sport science by the research project of the German federal institute for sport science (Bundesinstituts für Sportwissenschaft) in 2009 and was the subject of a publication. One central finding of this research project is the statement that future development of sports facilities will be their continued existence. A linking of leisure sport and competitive sport, in particular in leisure time facilities, can generate varied synergies. The research project showed for the sport and leisure park "JahnPark" in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, for example, a multiplication of the number of visitors, an increase in popularity of sports clubs based at the location and great acceptance from the public at large.
The JahnPark is an approach which promises success for a sustainable and demand-oriented modification of sport and exercise facilities. As a family-friendly sports facility for every generation, its motto is "Move and Meet" as it is open completely or partially to the general public. Along with a synthetic turf football pitch and an athletics field for school sports, it also covers a wide range of further kinds of sport for all age groups. For the very young a playground and rope-swings; teenagers can romp on small playing fields, a large beach volleyball pitch, a trend sport area and in the fitness rooms while for adults there is a wood-chip running track, a summer curling ring, a boules pitch and fitness equipment. A central attraction for all ages is the mini-golf course. On summer weekends with good weather, up to 2000 visitors use this course, the majority of them are local. The data with regard to age of users also shows the attraction for all age groups – from 1 to 99 years of age. The opening and extension to form a leisure sport facility has had a proven positive influence on the development of memberships for the sport club located there which has gained many new members and has been able to establish new sport offers.
A guarantee for the successful modification of the sports facilities structure is the inclusion of different key people at an early stage in the planning process. That "citizen-oriented" planning which includes the actual users is possible not only for small projects such as the JahnPark in Bad Hersfeld, but also for larger and more complex sports facilities is illustrated by the example of the sport and recreation area "Waldau" in Stuttgart, Germany.
Covering an area of 41 hectares, the sport and recreation area Waldau is the second largest sports facility in Stuttgart and is of great significance for Stuttgart hobby athletes. Due to the presence of a number of sports stadiums at this site – the GAZI Stadium as home to the professional football club the Stuttgarter Kickers and the most traditional and oldest stadium in Germany, the ice-sport hall Eiswelt Stuttgart and the indoor climbing range - a large number of different sports at local, regional and national level can be enjoyed at the sport and recreation area Waldau. Sixteen clubs are at home here and, in 2010, these had a total number of 11,308 active members. Supplementing the sports fields are facilities of the local bus services Stuttgarter Strassenbahn AG, a hotel, a training centre for a regional energy concern, two nursery schools and a woodland school. A further peculiarity is that the site is right next door to the Stuttgart television tower which attracts 300,000 visitors each year and is a popular destination for national and international tourists.
This area was originally an exercise ground. The sports facilities have gradually increased in size so that the public area has taken no more the character of a recreation area or resting place in their midst. Sporting activities such as ice skating have traditionally been located at the Waldau since the end of the 19th century, but since then, there has never been an overall development concept.
The sports development concept which was completed in 2010 generated the realisation that there was a deficit in individual sports offers, i.e. without club membership, freely usable "hanging out" areas, a lack of sports hall capacity, in the use of the existing sports facilities and in the design of both sports facilities and public areas at the Waldau site. The requirements placed on those kinds of sports facilities which are traditionally important for this area have change greatly in the last years. Some kinds of sport play a less important role, others are gaining in popularity. Individual sport without a club membership is also gaining increasingly in importance and presenting completely new challenges.
The decision to include intensive citizen participation was well founded at the Waldau site was particularly well founded due to the conglomerate of different interests which are involved at the site. For this reason, use of an external and neutrally moderated planning office was decided on. This methodical approach is best suited to first create a target definition, make and analysis of the existing stock and building on this, to general mutual ideas and to develop perspectives. At several meetings, where around 90 people took part each time, topics such as the development of the sports facilities, meeting rooms and recreational quality, image and corporate identity as well as questions of public transport and traffic were discussed.
The function of the planning office made a contribution towards mediating the discussion concerning further development of the Waldau site. The idea of widespread participation proved to be fruitful as the different interested parties and requirements could be integrated into the planning concept in one concentrated process. A planning concept has now been drawn up which enables the city of Stuttgart to successively further develop the Waldau site and to maintain its original function as sports zone while supplementing it with further functions. Sport, games, exercise and a public recreation area with a design appealing to all generations will make the development of the Waldau area to a focussed exercise and meeting centre in Stuttgart. The widely based participation made it possible to process different fields of action such as sport, recreation, leisure time, transport, environment and identity and to bring together representatives of different expert areas allowing them to exchange experience and ideas and to align their various interests.
Summarising, it can be said that in future as well there will be a demand for competition-oriented sports facilities and that these are an indispensable component in the structure of sports facilities. Despite this fact, the time has come to think about possibilities for further development, an opening for other user groups and an expansion into the aspects of leisure sport. Inclusion of users and other interested parties at an early planning stage is a guarantee for sustainable further development of sport as a whole.

About the author:
Dr. Stefan Eckl is Managing Director of the Institute for Cooperative Planning and Sport Development (Instituts für Kooperative Planung und Sportentwicklung) in Stuttgart, Germany.
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