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Tips for Designing Sports Complexes

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Designing and building a new sports complex is an impressive achievement. Sports complexes create buzz, adding to a community’s well-being, economy and connectedness.

You want to put your best foot forward when your company sets out to design a sports facility, and there are several aspects to consider. From the types of sports your organization will host to figuring out the needs of your user base, many factors play into your design decisions.

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Determine Which Activities Your Sports Complex Will Host

Choosing the types of activities your facility will host is an exciting first step and an essential element of the design phase. Since each sport needs a unique style of field or court, ensure your sports complex design has the appropriate features:

  • Baseball: Baseball fields can be a popular choice for many sports complexes. As a bonus, you can also host softball teams using your baseball field, allowing you to showcase two sports in one location.
  • Basketball: Basketball is played everywhere, from neighborhoods with a single hoop to full-blown gyms. Various sports complexes can host basketball courts, as you can play the game outdoors on concrete pavement and indoors on special flooring. Basketball courts are an excellent addition to a sports complex, as you can use them for pickup games, local leagues and tournaments.
  • Soccer: Youth leagues, schools and other groups all use soccer fields in sports complexes. A high school field can be anywhere between 100 to 120 yards long and 55 to 80 yards wide, so accommodating for this space in your design is key.
  • Football: Having a football field allows you to host football games and other versions of the sport, such as touch and flag football. Participants can also use the field for games like Ultimate Frisbee, making it a versatile addition to the complex.
  • Racquetball: Racquetball is a fun game where two to four people bounce balls off of walls for points. A court’s walls will need to be around 20 feet high, with a length of 40 feet and a width of 20 feet.
  • Tennis: Tennis facilities make an excellent addition to sports complexes — the game always draws enthusiasts. You can play tennis on a variety of surfaces, but hard courts are generally thought of as the best due to their easy maintenance, durability and user-friendliness.

Your organization may also include amenities and facilities that complement sports. Added aspects of the complex can include:

  • Swimming pools
  • Locker rooms
  • Shade structures
  • Restrooms
  • A fitness center
  • Food courts

Consider the Needs of Players and Spectators

Noteworthy sports complexes are tailored to the players and spectators using it. In order for your facilities to give the best experience to everyone using it, consider these points:

  • Players: While you want your complex’s design to speak to visitors, meeting the needs of active players is key. Your designs must consider the athletes’ needs and the particular sport you have in mind. You can wow players by having the courts, fields and equipment they need. In addition to premium game areas, you may also include changing areas, locker rooms and specialty parking.
  • Spectators: For spectators, it’s all about convenience and entertainment. Complexes that regularly host tournaments and other events that draw crowds can add seating, accessible parking and snack booths.
  • Members: Your organization’s members have the highest expectations, as they are your core patrons. Some elements members may expect include fitness facilities, a smooth check-in process, convenient parking, clean locker rooms and other amenities that provide members with comfort, convenience and exclusivity.

To help your design, try to answer some of these questions when determining how to improve your visitors’ experiences the most and meet their needs:

  • Who is going to use this complex?
  • What sports will be played here?
  • Will there be memberships?
  • Are the facilities indoors or outdoors? Both?
  • What will make an attendee’s experience more enjoyable?
  • How many fields/courts per sport should there be?

While these questions aren’t exhaustive, always try to be reflective and ask questions that can help you anticipate the needs of users before they ever articulate them.

Additional Athletic Facility Design Considerations

As you design your sports complex, it’s helpful to focus on the details that will have a positive bearing on a visitor’s experience. Will the complex be indoors, outdoors or a hybrid? How many courts will you have? Will you offer memberships? Once you have the foundations of your design, you can dive into elements of landscaping and construction for your outdoor or indoor sports facility.


Arguably, the most crucial design consideration is your complex’s surfacing. Innovations in artificial turf make it easy to have a low-maintenance lawn with the all-natural look and feel of grass. With artificial turf, you do not need to mow, weed or fertilize the grounds.

Although you don’t need to water artificial turf — making it an environmentally friendly option — you should rinse it about once a week to keep it clean, hygienic and odor-free. Artificial turf is designed with irrigation systems that drain water from cleaning and rain.

1. Natural Grass

One of the top turf options is natural grass. Some athletes prefer natural grass, as it’s generally a softer surface with more give to it, which can be easier on an athlete’s joints and knees. One study even suggests that natural grass is safer than artificial turf when playing a sport like football.

The cons to natural grass come down to its durability and how it performs in inclement weather. For example, natural grass can muddy and become slick, making it hard to play on and the chances of injury increase. Even in perfect weather, natural grass requires consistent maintenance, as grass can grow too high or get kicked up. Replanting grass, watering it and mowing it will be consistent tasks for those with natural grass for turf.

2. Field Turf

One of the newer artificial surfaces that sports complexes and professional teams tend to rely on is field turf. This kind of artificial turf tries to mirror the way natural grass feels. It’s softer than other turf options, as it’s made out of polyethylene blades and crumb rubber. Since its artificial, you won’t’ have to worry about mowing, and its irrigation systems will handle any draining that would normally hamper a natural grass field, leading to lower maintenance costs.

This kind of artificial surface also saves money due to its low maintenance costs. If you’re trying to be more environmentally friendly at your facility, a major bonus of field turf is that you don’t have to waste any water that would go towards watering natural grass throughout the year.

One of the downsides to field turf is how hot it can get playing on it. In fact, it’s been reported that on a 98-degree day, turf can raise the temperature to 120 degrees. Additionally, some bacteria can survive on turf for over 90 days, due to the polyethylene plastic used for the blades. This can be a cleanliness concern if a facility doesn’t regularly wash their turf.


Spectators and players alike enjoy evening and night games. Visitors love attending events at convenient hours, and athletes enjoy the coolness of the night for high-cardio games. Your company’s sports complex can also be more accessible to people who want to get a game in after work hours.

Adequate lighting is essential for keeping the fun going after the sun goes down. Your lighting needs will vary depending on the sport you’re accommodating, the size of your complex and your budget. Working with a lighting expert makes it easy to figure out the coverage you need. To save money and get more life out of your lights, choose LED bulbs over traditional ones — they provide long-term energy savings and tend to have a longer life span.


Secure and accessible parking is key to making your athletic complex accommodating. Sufficient parking can increase attendance and boost membership and visitor satisfaction. When you have the capacity to host large tournaments and events, your facility becomes a popular attraction for sporting event organizers.

When designing your complex, it’s wise to consider the demand of the sports you are tailoring your complex to. Getting a feel for the community’s interests and needs could give you insight into how busy your facility may get during big matches. Your complex will need enough parking for teams, hosts, players, coaches and crowds.

When you plan your parking area, it’s also helpful to consider the following points:

  • The number of team buses and vans your facility wants to accommodate.
  • The distance from the parking area to the reception, courts and amenities.
  • Designated parking for teams/coaches, emergency vehicles, people with different abilities and members.
  • Shade structures for covered parking.
  • Various ways to secure the parking area and mitigate liabilities.

Common Challenges of Designing Athletic Complexes

Building a sports complex is no doubt rewarding, but the construction does come with its own set of challenges and solutions:

  • Strict deadlines: Design and construction projects typically face strict deadlines. During your planning phase, consider when associations host events for the sports you are designing for. For example, typical basketball and football seasons fall between August and May. Aim to set your deadline before the next sporting season and pay close attention to dates if you will host sports with different seasons.
  • Space constraints: Space is always a concern whether you are building an indoor or outdoor facility. The key is balancing sports requirements with the area you have. You will also need to include sufficient space for amenities and parking. Working closely with an architect will give you excellent insights and eliminate a ton of perceived challenges.
  • Compliance requirements: Understanding building regulations and compliance laws is essential for ensuring your plans go ahead smoothly. The best place to start is to have your design team, architects and contractors meet with your town planner or zoning department so they can approve your plans.

Tips to Keep Guests Coming Back

Even before your complex opens to the public, you can brainstorm ways to generate interest and increase the chances of guests coming back or taking up membership.

1. Plan to Host Tournaments

During your company’s building phase, you can reach out to the event organizers to form relationships and let them know that your facility will host tournaments. Your team can also get in touch with local sports clubs and schools depending on the events you want to host.

With premium fields and courts, adequate parking, comfortable seating and convenient amenities, your sports complex can become the community’s go-to destination for tournaments and special events.

2. Respond to Feedback

Social media is a fantastic tool for marketing and discovering your audience’s needs and preferences. As you start the design phase, reach out on social media to get a feel for what the community wants, and do your best to incorporate their suggestions into your plans.

Once you have built the complex and guests are using it, be open to feedback so you can keep impressing athletes, members and visitors.

3. Use Shade Structures Outdoors

Even the most dedicated athletes and spectators want relief from the blistering summer heat. To keep people coming back to the facilities, many athletic complexes opt to install shade structures. Adding shade structures to your sports complex has several benefits:

  • Shade structures protect the well-being of athletes by giving them a place to cool off.
  • Spectators are more likely to attend games on hot days and stay longer.
  • Shade structures improve the visual appeal and intrinsic value of your complex.

Tips to Keep Guests Coming Back

Choose USA SHADE for Your Athletic Complex Shade Structure Needs

If your sports facility has outdoor areas, you can enhance the design of your athletic complex by adding shade sail and cantilever structure solutions throughout the grounds. From tennis court shade solutions to basketball court shade structures and more, our structures improve the appearance of your facilities and provide shade throughout. USA SHADE is proud of our custom approach that makes it easy for you to find a structure that fits your vision for your sports complex.

Contact us today with any questions or request a free quote from our team to yours!