When you think of school athletic facilities, you likely think of it as a space for only athletes. But today, it’s important that school designers plan and design these facilities with flexibility in mind, not only in terms of purpose, but to make everyone feel welcome while also promoting wellness. When Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Mass. retained Perkins and Will back in 2013 to conduct a master plan, our team examined how the existing buildings and athletic facilities functioned and identified strategies for improvement including how to better integrate into the campus fabric.
This resulted in an Athletic Facilities Master Plan that informed an ongoing strategic planning process. Through a collaborative approach, the Perkins and Will team unveiled Andover’s commitment to inclusivity, fostering “spaces for all.” Designing with this mantra was top of mind – and especially crucial as the broader world of athletics welcomes new sports, people and wellness strategies.
Following Perkins and Will’s master plan work at Phillips Academy, the firm was then engaged to design the Snyder Center at the school, a state-of-the-art multi-sport field house, which opened earlier this year. Andover strives to perform at the highest level of competition, so the school needed its facilities to match the abilities of its athletes. The new field house incorporates a 200-meter competition track that meets NCAA standards, an indoor practice space, a 12-court squash center with an exhibition court (making it one of the biggest squash facilities in the U.S.), spectator accommodations, sports medicine, meeting spaces, and multi-purpose training space that includes tennis and basketball.
While the building is an athletic facility, it acts equally as a student center. Phillips Academy Andover Director of Athletics Leon Modeste noted, “This is not just an athletic facility, it’s a hub of activity for all of our students whether to come play, watch or just study.”
The multi-use complex accommodates spectators for sporting events and up to 2,500 people for campus functions in an assembly configuration. The facility also allows all athletic teams to practice indoors during inclement weather and provides a large, multi-purpose space that accommodates a variety of events such as track meets, intramural and recreational uses, and special campus and community functions. The Snyder Center itself is two levels. The lower floor contains the locker room, storage facility, kitchen/hospitality catering area, a sports medicine area and seating primarily for the athletes, while on the upper floor there is a multi-purpose, convertible space that can be turned over to hospitality areas like galas and dining.
Designing for Flexibility, Inclusivity and Diversity
The Snyder Center was built for the school and community. Andover has always followed the mantra “athletics for all,” so the school tries to be all things for everyone including adults, students and athletes. With that, there is a variety of scale of spaces including an inclusive student lounge, team meeting space, and the indoor track area can even accommodate convocation and other school events. As soon as the clock hits 3:00 p.m., students flood into the new athletic center space to work in the study lounge areas, or to hang out and socialize.
Designing the field house to suit top-of-the-line athletics programs was just one aspect – student life was also a priority. Phillips Academy is an independent boarding school, so there was a need for students to be finished with activities by dinner time. In turn, our team intentionally designed the facility to accommodate multiple teams and sports at once. For example, running track practice can occur concurrently with tennis and/or basketball within the oval of the track.
Since every student at Phillips Academy is required to take part in physical education/wellness, there is a big push to accommodate scheduling needs. The center encourages students to participate in physical activity every day, and not compromise wellness, nutrition and academics.
Our firm also prioritized diversity for the people that use the space. For example, there are gender neutral locker rooms that can be accessed through a shared door. Once a student – or anyone – enters the locker room door, they can choose which restroom and locker room area to use. The plumbing fixtures reflect this flexibility. Additionally, each home locker room has an independent single person shower and restroom facility.
Another key point in the design process was branding and graphics, shown throughout the facility to highlight diversity and inclusion. Graphics were designed to depict and represent all activities that could take place in the building – from yoga, dance and ultimate frisbee to track and field events.
As the world of sports and wellness expands and reaches people of all kinds, our sports facilities must reflect this cultural evolution. Phillips Academy Andover serves as a strong example of how a field house can be more than just a place for sports and recreation – but a student center for all at its core.
This article originally appeared in School Planning & Management.