As summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter, we naturally start to return to more indoor oriented activities. No matter what season it is, physical activity is an important part of our daily routine. Whether it’s a simple walk or meeting up with friends for a game of pickleball, regular physical activity can improve brain health, help manage weight, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities.

Many activities can be done indoors or out, and it is important to take advantage of the days you can be outside while utilizing indoor space to stay active on those days where the weather is limiting outdoor activities. During the warmer months it is certainly easier to walk out the front door and take a walk, however during the winter months we tend to utilize indoor environments more. Spaces for indoor physical activity can be created in a wide range of buildings from schools, sports clubs, to community centers. While most sports require minimum dimensions and other key requirements, almost any space can be used for some form of physical activity.

“Multi-Purpose. Multi-functional. Multi-use”

These terms continuously fly around in community recreation design circles like tennis balls across a net. Recreation and sport facilities are essential to the health and well-being of all communities and (if well designed) will become the thriving hub for community activities. Many times, a community recreation center and the space within it is primarily designed as an indoor venue, however it is important that these facilities are threaded into an outdoor environment that allows for year-round usage of the community recreation center indoors and outdoors.

Community recreation centers are typically designed to include indoor gyms which are designed to provide the spaces necessary for multiple sports activities. Indoor turf is very popular to allow for field sports to be played indoors, and multi-use activity space to allow for a variety of group exercise classes. However, when these multi-use spaces are also included outside, they allow for more flexibility and an enhanced use of the community center as a whole. Intentional programming combined with flexible space for year-round usage solidifies a community recreation center as the hub of healthy community activity.

When planning and designing a community recreation center, it is important for the center to promote and encourage usage 365 days per year. For example, many times communities locate community swimming pools elsewhere in the community. However, if space allows combining indoor and outdoor aquatics programs on the same site with the community center it will encourage usage of the center throughout the summer. Outdoor courts will allow for both indoor and outdoor play and walking paths can thread surrounding neighborhoods with the facility. Beyond programming, the design should be connected to the exterior and allow for natural light to be captured throughout the facility.

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Summit Park, Blue Ash, Ohio - Observation Tower in the winter.
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Summit Park, Blue Ash, Ohio - The park hosts ice rink under canopy in the winter for guests to enjoy.

At MSA, we design all of our facilities with year-round usage in mind. For example, an important part of Summit Park in Blue Ash was the inclusion of a large, outdoor pavilion to provide coverage for summer events such as car shows or farmers markets and an ice rink during the winter months. Multi-Purpose. Multi-functional. Multi-use. Key words we focus on when designing any recreational space for maximum flexibility, 365-day usage, and allowing for varied physical activity no matter what weather conditions are.