Community sport in schools

Community sport in schools

Waverley Christian College, Narre Warren South 2016: Sports Centre and Auditorium   

By Tammy Beck, Williams Ross Architects 

One of the most frequent conversations we have with schools is how to develop multi-use, adaptable spaces. Never so much as when a school is looking to build an indoor sports stadium. Often the largest building on campus, sports centres are a much-needed asset for the school community; a space used for sports classes and activities, health and wellbeing, whole school gatherings, performance, exhibitions, and many other events.  

As extremely hard-working buildings, gone are the days of building a cost-effective ‘decorated shed’. Sports Centres have become more sophisticated in their design, with the quality of the building directly linked to its ability to adapt and meet the functional requirements of these disparate uses. While the capital investment has increased, so too have the benefits including improved energy efficiency, reduced operational and set-up costs, and building longevity. This article examines the key facility design elements to improve the ease of use, make the building adaptable and consider the relationships between the school and local community.  

Once we were asked to design a ‘gym-a-café-torium’ — a sports centre with café that would moonlight as a performance space and auditorium until the college built their performing arts centre. While we eventually dropped the café, the ‘gym-a-torium’ was built. It successfully manages sports activities, games, music and productions and transforms into a church gathering space on the weekend for up to 1,000 people. Sadly, the building is so successful the performing arts building is no longer a priority. But the building provided key insights into ways to balance the seemingly incompatible uses of high-ball sports and performance events. 

Indoor sports centre design 

A good starting point is the range of indoor sports centre design resources available online from your state’s peak sports bodies – e.g., Netball Victoria and Basketball Victoria. Designing your facility to meet their basic, local level requirements is key to attracting community sports associations use, and ensures your building meets safety requirements such as compliant run-off allowances. 

Designing for additional uses 

Designing a building to be adaptable for different uses increases building cost so it is important to be clear what the building needs to achieve. For example, designing a sports centre to also facilitate whole school gathering events or performances you could consider: 

  • installing a motorised retractable seating bank to quickly change a sports court into a large tiered seated venue. A single sports court can fit up to 1,000 seats on a single unit 

  • ‘dress’ the internal space by using high quality internal finishes with acoustic properties 

  • install a black, heavy acoustic ceiling / roof system to control noise, help all the structure, fittings disappear for events and improve energy efficiency 

  • protect any lighting or AV equipment in the space with retractable fittings or cages 

Designing for your local neighbourhood 

Schools’ experiences with their neighbours can be complicated. Welcoming your local community into your school and sharing facilities is encouraged, however it can conflict with school policy, security, your local council and neighbours. Indoor sports centres are also high-volume spaces, comparable in height to a three-storey residence but with long, straight stretches of facade. Mitigating the building bulk is an important design consideration especially in high density environments:  

  • Use landscaping buffers along highly visible frontages. 

  • Use single storey elements such as entries, foyers, amenities to moderate the bulk of the building. 

  • Design the building with a high-quality acoustic fabric to contain noise. 

Managing external use 

Site design and building systems can greatly improve the ease at which external access is managed: 

  • Locate the facility on an external site boundary with easy access to the street and car parking.  
  • Install access control to all doors with the ability to create a hierarchy of users with different levels of access.
  • Install security monitoring and access and building management systems to provide remote access and control.

Antonine College – St Joseph Campus, Pascoe Vale South: soon to be built double sports courts located within a dense urban neighbourhood. 

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