The world of athletics is becoming an increasingly competitive marketplace. Sports programs are enlisting innovative design approaches to find the competitive edge needed to recruit and retain athletes and enhance their performance. Design teams are rising to meet this challenge with solutions that promote the physical, social and mental aspects of athletes’ development helping to protect the major investments of time and money put into each player.

Incorporating a holistic design approach for higher athletic performance means designing training facilities not only for the player, but for the coaching staff, trainers and nutritionists that impact an athlete on a regular basis. Tuning a facility’s design to match the needs of any of these individuals is a requirement for strategic and thoughtful design. An integrated design team experienced in healthcare, technology, engineering and construction can respond and adapt quickly to help accomplish client’s goals from initial contemplation to beyond move-in day.

Home Away From Home

For many athletes, more time is spent in a training facility than nearly anywhere else. Designing spaces that accommodate every aspect of player performance not only supports the athlete but provides a place that is comfortable to spend long hours working, socializing and recovering.

Sports facility design needs to promote physical training and performance, as well as recovery and rehabilitation on-site to shorten the gap between medical rehabilitation and an athlete’s return to full performance potential. Nutrition is also a key aspect in optimal training facility design with many teams placing the dietician at the center of the team’s activities. Additionally, providing intentional room for coaching and education, travel coordination and family support services is integral when designing a space built for efficiency and function.

Cutting-Edge Technology Solutions

Incorporating the latest in sport science technology has also become a crucial priority for many teams. Solutions that collect data give teams the power to assess information gathered, such as from computer simulation or motion capture numbers, and implement a response in a logical and beneficial manner.

The right data collection approach provides teams the ability to track, record and apply data related to efficient motion and provide the necessary adjustments to maximize results and avoid future injury. Other technology solutions also help teams analyze high-altitude training and heat and humidity immersion to provide optimal training conditions for players.

An Intuitive Design Approach

The organization of a training facility is dictated by space requirements, technology and the staff needed to support all elements that go into player performance. The challenge is translating space and equipment needs into an attractive, efficient and cost-effective design plan.

As with any thoughtful planning process, flexibility and adaptability are essential when thinking beyond today’s needs. Training facility design will continue to evolve and design elements such as open structural systems with ample ceiling heights, partition walls that can easily be moved or eliminated, and adaptable technology and infrastructure can all help provide flexibility for the future.

No training facility, athlete, or league is one-size-fits-all and design challenges require unique solutions that an integrated team can provide. With forethought and creativity, a new training facility can be built to perform as well as the athletes it serves.


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Erica Muhlenbruch leads design projects in the sports, performance and entertainment practice at Burns & McDonnell. With more than 20 years of experience as an interior architect, she has led over $1 billion in projects in all phases of design for NBA, NHL, NFL and MLS stadiums, arenas and training facilities.