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Accessible Architecture for Sports Facilities

By Mario Pistone, Vice President, Parkin Architects Limited

Events like the upcoming Parapan 2015 games will provide exposure of sports to a growing community base and inspire new participants. Games such as 7-a-side and 5-a-side Football (soccer) enable athletes with a range of medical conditions, including cerebral palsy and vision impairment to participate in soccer and the collegial and bonding elements of team sport.

As the popularity of field sports and para-sports increases in Canada, artificial fields are playing an ever-increasing role in providing quality facilities for recreational and competitive use. While outdoor artificial turfs offer extended seasonal play, indoor field houses provide year-round facility use, and – if well designed – provide flexible usage for other community services.

Designing facilities with fully accessible facilities and playing surfaces promotes inclusivity within the community and provides opportunity for more families to enjoy the benefit of sport.

Parkin has recently completed design of a new change house and multipurpose structure at Fleming College in Peterborough, in collaboration with landscape architecture firm, John George Associates.

Cut into the side of a hill, adjacent to a municipal recreation centre and baseball park, the two artificial turf fields include accessible grading to playing surfaces and spectator areas.

A 4,000 sq.ft. change house is situated with access to both fields and the central stands to provide support for spectators, as well as change and gathering facilities for participants. The building includes public washrooms, a family washroom, change-rooms and multipurpose rooms.

Landscaping and access to playing surfaces, spectator areas and the change house are designed to meet or exceed accessibility design requirements. Within the change house, all washrooms are designed to be accessible, as are each of 4 team change rooms, complete with accessible showers, washroom stalls and benches.

The most prominent feature of the change house is the open-air forecourt sheltered by a wood framed canopy. Recognizing that field sports can be played in the rain, the canopy offers ready shelter for a sudden, unfavourable change in conditions. For kids, it means that even if the game is cut short by the weather, there’s a spot to enjoy that hard-earned treat. It also provides grandparents and younger children a shaded area in which to seek refuge from the sun during longer games or tournaments, while maintaining views to the action on the fields.

Complementing artificial fields with well-designed, accessible facilities can be an asset to a community. Creating structures that are well designed and flexible in use enhance the value of those facilities by maximizing potential uses and creating positive player and spectator experiences.

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