Thinking Outside the Lines For Facilities Inside the Park WHEN YOUR LIFE’S WORK INVOLVES LOOKING AT and promoting sports facilities, you always get a buzz when you see a new field, court or pool going in. Sometimes, though, you just want to shake people. Recently, a park in my neck of the woods announced plans to add a regulation-size cricket venue. I was thrilled — until I saw how much resistance the facility was getting from many of the neighborhood residents. In particular, I was annoyed to see someone say they thought ‘incumbent users’ (their words) of the park should have been asked for permission before the field construction was announced. Some questioned the importance of a field they thought everyone couldn’t relate to. The fact is this: the demographics of just about every city, particularly those where there is a diversifying ethnic population, are constantly in flux. With those changes come new businesses, restaurants — and a demand for different sports facilities. It goes without saying the ‘incumbent users’ were upset about the presence of a field they considered outside of the mainstream. But let’s remember that not all that long ago, soccer was outside the mainstream too — at least in the U.S. In fact, soccer was brought to this country by immigrants who had played it throughout Europe. And one of the first pro players to permeate America’s collective consciousness wasn’t even American. He was Brazilian: Pelé. Yet today, soccer is wildly popular and we can’t imagine a park without soccer fields, much less a city that doesn’t want to host a soccer tournament. The fact that we haven’t tried a sport yet only means one thing: that we haven’t tried it yet. It’s an opportunity for increased use of existing facilities, and it creates a demand for construction of new ones. That leads to better economic impact and a healthier population overall. With new sports come new opportunities. Let’s all remember that, and encourage their growth because ultimately, it’s how sports tourism grows and flourishes as well. MARY HELEN SPRECHER has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association (ASBA), the national association of designers, builders and suppliers of materials for athletic facilities. She has worked in meeting and convention planning for non-profit associations, and previously was a staff writer for a Baltimore, Maryland newspaper. She is a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management, a professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and has taught meeting planning and event management courses in the continuing studies program at Goucher College, located in Towson, Maryland. Her freelance writing includes coverage of topics in the areas of fitness, health, sports medicine and special education.
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