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Interpreting legal requirements when building sport facilities

This is an excerpt from Recreation Facility Management 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access by Brent A. Beggs,Richard F. Mull,Mick Renneisen & Michael A. Mulvaney.

Administrators often do not initially realize how many local and state codes are involved in the construction of a recreation facility. Construction managers serve a valuable role in interpreting these codes, which must be observed during construction. Specific codes are available through local government agencies and state governments, and they are usually available on the Internet. Construction managers make sure everything is done accurately and meets specific design requirements. The watchdog role of the construction manager comes into play with electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and structural details, as well as the legal codes that must be applied to each phase of the project. Failure to follow certain requirements can result in lawsuits that affect all those involved with the project.

While local codes may vary, construction managers in the United States should be aware of the federal standards associated with facility construction. One of the most recognizable federal codes surrounding facility construction is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Part of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in multiple areas, including employment, public accommodations, communications, transportation, and access to public programs and services. The ADA provides the legal support to ensure reasonable accommodations in public places, prohibits discrimination based on disabling conditions, and provides a definition of disabilities (Sourby, 2022).

A supporting philosophy called universal design builds on the tenets of the ADA with an emphasis on a wider spectrum of abilities, and it aims to exceed minimum standards to meet the needs of the greatest number of people. Seven principles embody the philosophy of universal design. They are listed here, followed by their applications to recreational settings (Sourby, 2022):

  1. Equitable: Designs that address a wide range of needs
  2. Flexibility in use: Hands-free operation of equipment and facility amenities
  3. Simple and intuitive use: Comfortable equipment that is easy to use (e.g., high-contrast, large on–off controls).
  4. Perceptible information: Large buttons on remotes, phones, and touch screens
  5. Tolerance for error: Nonslip surfaces, glare reduction surfaces
  6. Low physical effort: Amenities that support a wide range of abilities
  7. Appropriate size and space for approach and use: Wide doorways, roll-in showers, and bathroom stalls for wheelchairs and walkers



Check It Out

Think Universal Design!

Planning and purchasing the furniture and equipment for the facility can be an exciting task. During this time, it is important to consider accessibility in the selection of these important facility amenities. Consider the seven principles of universal design (discussed in Interpreting Legal Requirements). Networking with similar agencies who have successfully employed these principles in their facilities can also be helpful.



Industry Profile

Officially opened in January 2022, the Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground is a 30,000-square-foot (2,787 m2) play area in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Located in the City of Cambridge’s Danehy Park, it is the city’s first playground to fully incorporate the seven principles of universal design (see chapter 8):

  1. Equitable design and use
  2. Flexibility in use
  3. Simple and intuitive use
  4. Perceptible information
  5. Tolerance for error
  6. Low physical effort
  7. Size and space for approach and use

Each of these principles was considered in nearly every facet of the playground and its equipment. The park was designed for all ages; the playground’s key amenities include the following:

  1. Junior and senior play areas to support various age levels and experiences.
  2. Slides with horizontal tubing to allow users to hear and feel when sliding.
  3. Swing and spin zone and climbing slope to promote both independent and interactive play experiences.
  4. Music area where users can play chimes or simulate rain sounds. The space also has plantings to foster sensory (smell, sight, touch) stimulation.
  5. Sensory walk zone, which includes a pathway with various accessible surfaces that support users with or without mobility devices and provide changes in tactile and auditory responses as users navigate through it.
  6. Sensory hilltop that is reached after completing an accessible labyrinth pathway.
  7. Art-play sculpture with curving wooden planks, window features, and handholds for climbing.
  8. Poured-in-place rubber surfacing use zones around the play equipment that provide nonslip, cushioned, fall-protection surfaces for users.
  9. Splash pad for use in the summer months that includes junior and senior play features and seating for caregivers.

Over 50 trees were planted throughout the playground, and the wood used in most of the playground was sourced from harvested black locust trees (which are resistant to decay and rot) from an earlier city project.

Further integration of the community into the park is evident in the paintings along playground walls, which were completed by a local artist with autism. The playground is named in honor of Cambridge’s city manager, Louis A. DePasquale, who was instrumental in the playground’s universal design focus.

More Excerpts From Recreation Facility Management 2nd Edition With HKPropel Access

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