The Facility Audit, Part 1

Quick Facts: Planning, Step by Step

Step 1: Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Step 2: Use a master or comprehensive plan

Step 3: Use a participatory planning approach

Step 4: Research your funding options

Step 5: Organize a project planning committee

Step 6: Understand when to renovate, retrofit, or replace

Step 7: Develop a program statement for the architect

Step 8: Use planning professionals


The purpose of this article (Part 1 of 3) is to present a basic outline for those charged with the responsibility of planning a new sport or recreational facility. Such an opportunity should be enjoyed and not looked at as an awesome, unattainable task.

There are several assumptions that must be stated to simplify the process.

First, this article assumes that some decision has been made that supports the building of a facility.

Second, the money for this facility, at this point, is not an issue (I know that there will need to be financial considerations; we’re just not ready for them yet).

Finally, there is a willingness to involve others in the planning.

Steps to Success

Given these assumptions, this article will focus on three key topics: planning guidelines, the architect and the facility consultant.

There are a number of “formulas” for planning. I happen to like the steps set forth by Harvey White and James Karabetsos in their chapter in Planning and Designing Facilities. These planning guidelines have been adopted by the Council on Facilities and Equipment (CFE), a substructure of the American Association for Active Lifestyles and Fitness. The council has been involved with publishing a facilities guide or resource since 1946, completing its 10th edition in 2002.

Following are the primary steps that should be taken as the planning for a new facility is undertaken:

1. The first guideline is to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Designing for inclusion is more than the law, it’s a philosophy. The legal evolution of inclusionary design has gradually improved facility access and egress for people with disabilities.

There are an abundance of specific resources for people who are committed to inclusionary design. But, nothing will be done well without an early commitment to this concept and to meeting the legal requirements. See Parks & Rec Business magazine, November 2003, page 18, for more information on functional accessibility. Also, federal accessibility guidelines can be found at

2. Use a master or comprehensive plan. Some organizations have more than one facility or there is some expectation for growth or change in the future.

If this is the case, then a master plan that considers the development of facilities and spaces in a broader context will be important to the planning process.

Planning a single facility may not require a comprehensive plan, but don’t be short sighted and find future planning constrained by earlier development that failed to appropriately plan for program growth or changing demands. A master plan will typically provide short- and long-range thinking regarding the organization and its future needs.

If you have a master plan, a good idea is to arrange to have it updated on an annual basis. Often, the organization puts some real time and energy into creating a master plan (usually with some professional help), and when the work is all done, they set the plan aside and focus on one or two specific elements of the plan.

A couple of years later, when they want to figure out what to do next, they find that the plan has not been updated to reflect important changes over time. Some specific elements that might be updated each year include:

• Changes in property lines

• Changes to any existing facilities including access and egress

• New facilities, parking lots, out-buildings, etc.

• Changes in local codes that have to do with traffic patterns, building restrictions (height, setback, footprint, etc.)

• Changes in utilities, etc.

• Future master planning decisions

3. Use a participatory planning approach. Look around your organization and consider the many people who the new facility may serve. Then anticipate a need to create a kind of ownership in your planning process.

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Related posts:

  1. The Facility Audit, Part 2
  2. Facility Planning
  3. The Skatepark Decision, Part 1
  4. The Skatepark Decision, Part 8
  5. Facility Homework
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