Designing Urban Sports Playgrounds

Designing Urban Sports Playgrounds

Urban sports playgrounds are major centers of social and economic importance across the world. Cities have long provided many ways for the community to enjoy physical activity, games, and sports. In fact, they have made determined efforts, over the past decade, for constructing major sport facilities and playgrounds in concentrated areas in order to create a themed sports zone and achieve urban regeneration and local economic development. Urban sports playgrounds, nowadays, need to be optimized in order to admit people on a daily basis and meet the needs of any activity that might take place in them. Sports playgrounds include: Public playgrounds, swimming pools, ice skating rinks, sport fields, bike paths, and parks.

Here is what you need to consider when planning and designing an urban sports playground:

1- Choosing a proper siting: When planning an urban sports playground, the first step that designers and architects take take is finding the perfect site for the playground. It is important to choose a location that can be easily accessed by residents and visitors of all ages and abilities.

2- Ensuring the safety of visitors and site: Safety is considered one of the most important aspects in designing an urban sports playground. In fact, providing a safe environment can play a major role in the success of the playground, as increasing safety and the perception of safety within these playgrounds can reduce vandalism, crimes, and robberies and increase the number of visitors. It is also important to provide adequate access and egress for fire and an adequate emergency response, as well as locate emergency vehicle access within reachable distance of any recreational use, where possible. Another safety measure is to ensure clear separation between the playground’s vehicular and pedestrian entrances to avoid any types of car accidents.

3- Providing a universal and inclusive design: Designers and architects are looking, today, to create parks and recreational facilities, including sports playgrounds, that have diverse elements that can accommodate a different range of residents and users of all abilities, while creating a fun and enjoyable experience for all of them. The design is often inclusive, providing a venue for social cohesion and encouraging interaction of people from different social and cultural demographics.

4- Providing a sustainable environment: In order to ensure the success of the playground, architects also look to incorporate water and energy conservation into landscape and building design to reduce lifetime water and energy usage, as well as introduce recycling, promote waste reduction, minimize erosion and reduce air, water, and land pollution by using non-toxic materials and products.

5- Working on active living: Active living positively contributes to social cohesion, wellbeing and economic prosperity in cities. Thus, a successful playground’s primary goal is to have a positive impact on the lives of city residents, in terms of their physical, mental, and social well-being. This is achieved by using the built environment in the area to provide different types of recreational facilities and trails in the playground. For instance, urban designers and architects need to build around the area to provide, for example, paths for hiking, biking, and jogging, athletic courts for tennis, basketball and swimming, and multi-use fields for soccer, football, and skateboarding, as well as gyms, while supporting and preserving the regional identity of the park location. The sports playground should also be able to provide shaded seating places, such as benches, for parental supervision, whenever needed.

6- Ensuring walkability: It is important, in any playground, to provide connections to existing transportation networks to promote easy access to parks and recreational facilities. This includes roadways, pathways, trails, bicycle paths, sidewalks, and mass transit routes. Walkways, for example, should be located to provide a logical, convenient, and aesthetic means of accessing the playground, as they provide connections to different parts of the playground. Pathways can provide direct access to the playground’s different amenities, such as play areas, restrooms, sport fields and courts, and any other major activity areas.

7- Landscaping: Proper landscaping is what gives a playground its character and identity. This includes providing an aesthetically pleasing and inviting playground and recreational facility and embracing natural, cultural, and historic resources as themes or design features of the playground’s surroundings. Landscape designs, for example, should be sensitive and appropriate for the site to minimize any disruptions to existing plant habitats. Using plants and trees around the playground’s different sports fields helps create microclimates and lower energy consumption resulting from urban heat island effect. Sun shade and drinking fountains can also be provided near the turf fields. As for playground surfaces, there are many options available, such as mulch, gravel, sand, and turfs. However, surfaces made of mulch, gravel or sand tend to be less safe as time goes by, as high foot traffic tends to displace the material exposing the hard ground underneath. This is why, most urban designers and architects choose turf as a safer and more sustainable option, as they provide a cleaner play environment, and lower maintenance costs. They are also resistant and hold up under a variety of weather conditions. On the other hand, artificial turf is environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing with a natural look and feel to it.

8- Lighting: To make the urban sports playgrounds accessible in the evening hours or at night, lighting is a necessity to ensure safer play after dark. Lighting could include light poles, LED lights, sports lights, or solar-powered lights. LED lighting, for instance, can make spaces more inviting and help create visual experiences at night. In fact, a quality LED playground lighting system will produce a safer environment, allow for longer usage of the playground, and even reduce operating costs.

9- Installing signs and labels for easy access: Placing labels and signs around the playground can help visitors access different parts of the playground with ease. Signs can also help keep visitors safe and raise their level of awareness. Guide signs provide mileage and directional information to specific destinations, while safety signs offer user health and safety guidelines at all sports fields and courts. These signs could include, but not be limited to, advising users how to recognize heat-related illnesses, emphasizing good hygiene such as washing hands after playing and practicing, standard first aid for wounds to prevent infections, and indicating which activities are allowed and not allowed in the different parts of the playground. These signs can also address items such as food, drinks, pets and certain types of athletic shoes and athletic equipment which may damage the turf and shorten the product’s life expectancy.

The planning of urban sports playgrounds should be proactive and consider how to best use available land, especially since they are major assets that play a key role in a variety of sectors, including recreation, health and wellness, community development, economic development, natural environment, education, and transportation. A well-designed sports playground can contribute to a healthier, safer, and sustainable environment, while contributing, at the same time, to a better interactive community.

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