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Enhanced Indoor Recreation Capacity

While the Manchester Whitewater Park is the city’s most visible and dynamic recreation amenity, it can only be enjoyed a few months out of the year. During stakeholder input, local residents were nearly unanimous in their desire to have additional options for indoor recreation and entertainment, especially for families with children.

A key strategic issue for Manchester is balancing the logistical and fiscal challenges of a new recreation facility with the presence of the volunteer-run Delaware County Recreation Center (DCRC), a beloved local amenity with over 1,800 members enjoying a range of indoor recreation opportunities. Would there be enough local support for building a new indoor recreation facility – albeit with compelling potential features such as an indoor pool, splash pad, climbing wall, children’s play structures, community meeting rooms, food and beverage service, etc. – when an existing rec center is well used and could potentially be enhanced through small-scale renovation?


While discussions about future indoor recreation opportunities in Manchester have been ongoing, recommendations from the Manchester Placemaking process and the inclusion of enhanced indoor recreation capacity as a priority project has spurred local leaders to accelerate these discussions through the formation of a Task Force to guide indoor recreation assessment and decision-making.

As of December 2019, the Task Force has met twice to discuss community needs and opportunities related to indoor recreation. Through these discussions, the Task Force has proposed moving forward with renovations of the existing facility as well as building an addition to expand programming space. The Task Force agrees that these changes are necessary for the longevity and continued utility of the DCRC and needs to work with the Delaware County Supervisors and Fair Board to get approval to move the fairground entrance and use of 1.25 acres to construct the proposed addition.

As a baseline proposal to inform Task Force discussions, McClure has laid out a potential two-phase option for renovating the existing DCRC (Phase I) and constructing an addition to the facility (Phase II). These phases would happen simultaneously to help build and sustain momentum throughout this multi-year process.

Initial renovations would entail making targeted investments in the Delaware County Recreation Center to improve the playing surface for basketball, pickleball, and other activities, upgrade the décor and atmosphere of the center to improve its appearance and ambiance, add programs such as youth wellness support, and hire full-time administrative staff to manage the facility and its programs.

These improvements would satisfy community demands for improved indoor recreation while laying the groundwork for the new addition with more modern family-friendly features and equipment. These efforts would be moving forward simultaneously. As improvements are being implemented at the existing facility, public outreach, planning, design, and resource development for a new addition can begin.

Based on an approved vision, fundraising and resource development for the new addition can begin with a goal of breaking ground within three years of the campaign’s launch.

Potential Phase I

Delaware County Recreation Center Enhancement

Opened in 2003, the DCRC was the realization of the vision of local leaders who wanted to provide Manchester residents with an affordable location to engage in fun and fitness. Years of private donations of funds, materials, and equipment along with countless hours of volunteer time and effort helped make the dream a reality.

Over 1,800 members now visit the facility year-round. Open 16 hours per day, the facility is run by an all-volunteer team who staffs the front desk every day during the winter months and two days a week during the summer.

The DCRC strives to keep membership costs low in order to fulfill its mission of improving the health and wellness of Delaware County and surrounding communities. Annual membership fees range from $180 for individuals to $240 for couples and $300 for families. Single and multiple-month membership rates are also available as are discounted fees for individuals who only want to use the walking track. Donated time, effort, and resources keep membership costs low and sustain the center’s operations.

DCRC facilities include: [Source]

  • Gymnasium: A flexible space that can be used for basketball, volleyball, soccer, dancing and other activities
  • Weight Room: Free-weights and weight machines
  • Cardio Room: Stationary bikes, spin bikes, elliptical, treadmills, stair-steppers, rowing machines
  • Locker Rooms: Handicapped accessible with toilets and showers
  • Multipurpose Room: Special flooring and mirrors for dancing, Tai-Chi, aerobics, and other activities
  • Social Room: Multi-use with a refrigerator, microwave, cupboards, sink, tables and chairs in the large room that can be rented out for meetings or social gatherings
  • Elevated Walking Track: Fitted with a special soft surface that helps ease stress on foot and ankle joints. The inside portion of the track is sometimes used for dancing, Taekwondo and other activities
  • Lobby: Furnished with seating, reading materials, and a large screen TV for visitors and families waiting for those who are using the facility. A carpetball table is available for member usage
  • Pickleball Room: Available for rental, with a ping pong table in place for use by members
  • Batting cage and pitching cage: Equipment for practice or casual use, also available for rental

Dance classes are offered at the center for people of all ages, including instruction for ballet, jazz, tap, point, and hip-hop.

Even as they praised the DCRC and its benefits, stakeholders also believe that the design, atmosphere, materials, and décor of the facility are becoming dated and do not represent the image of Manchester they want to project to visitors. Multiple input participants also singled out the center’s volunteer-based operational model as limiting the potential to provide compelling programming and activities at the DCRC.

Therefore, enhancements to the facility’s physical spaces should be complemented by increased investment in full-time personnel capacity to manage, program, and staff the DCRC.

Athletic Business magazine recommends the following steps [Source] for communities pursuing renovations of their recreation centers. They should be performed for the DCRC in coordination with efforts to plan and design a new family activity center (see Phase II) to ensure the facilities are complementary and not redundant.

  • Identify and prioritize key opportunities: Assess community demographics, new and upcoming trends, and the rec center’s unique position in the marketplace.
  • Assess usage trends: Analyze recent operating budgets, membership totals, utility bill variations, program participation, and other data to identify potential areas of improvement.
  • Conduct a physical assessment: Survey the condition of the building’s structure and envelope, plumbing, electrical systems, an interior and exterior finishes to determine how the building has aged during its lifespan.
  • Create a facility report: Document all the information collected in a facility report for review and input. Findings should be discussed with city and county officials, the general public, and everyday users as well as neighboring strategic partners. Diverse input on the facility report will help with prioritizing the opportunities identified during the evaluation.
  • Confirm major areas of opportunity: Based on the assessment, facility report, and stakeholder feedback, the community should confirm and prioritize rec center enhancements. Each new or improved space should be assigned a cost, benefit, and revenue-generation potential. For example, many improvements might have a significant cost, but if they can generate sufficient new income then they might pay for themselves. Finding low cost and high revenue enhancements is a fundamental priority for a successful renovation. For Manchester, this process must be coordinated with planning and design of a new family activity center as proposed in Phase II.
  • Produce an approved development plan: Once redevelopment priorities are agreed upon, a plan for execution of these improvements should be created that specifies costs, timelines, and operational budget for the center. In Manchester, this should include assessment of staffing the DCRC with at least two full-time employees, one to manage the facility and one to develop and administer programs.
  • Conduct a resource campaign: This will entail securing commitments from the City of Manchester, Delaware County, private individuals, foundations, businesses, and other partners to fund DCRC enhancements. Government and philanthropic grants could also be pursued to support redevelopment.

One of the principal challenges to renovating the Delaware County Recreation Center will be to identify and secure financing to accommodate the desired enhancements. It is likely that resources will need to come from both public and private sources.

As state-of-the-art recreation centers have become increasingly vital local amenities, communities have been forced to be creative in funding renovations to existing facilities. A recent example is the expansion of the Foglia Foundation Health and Recreation Center at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. The 40-year-old, 135,000 square foot facility underwent a $41 million renovation by the college in collaboration with Northwest Community Healthcare, which agreed to pay for the fit out of a new Outpatient Care Center health clinic. Its services are available to students, employees, and the community. The Palatine (IL) Parks District contributed $9 million towards the renovation to support the operations of the pool. [Source]

The Draper Center in Salt Lake County, Utah was funded by a $19.5 million ZAP3 (for Zoo, Arts, and Parks) bond, $1.3 million from the local school district for first-use rights of the lap pool, and $2.2 million from the City of Draper.

Potential Phase II

New Addition to DRDC

While lauding the DCRC’s equipment, flexible hours, affordable cost, and impact on the Manchester community, stakeholders feel that the city would benefit from a greater diversity of sports and modern amenities such as a children’s play area and indoor swimming. The DCRC Task Force believes a new addition to the existing facility could with these features would be consistent with a nationwide trend that is seeing communities invest in next-generation recreation centers to meet the needs of existing and future residents.

According to Building Design & Construction magazine, “In markets around the country, the most in-demand building type isn’t an office, K-12 school, or hospital. It’s a multigenerational recreation center… Over the past 15 years, rec centers have evolved from an aggregation of gyms, sports courts, and small pools into ‘hubs of the community’ and ‘transition zones’ where people of all ages meet, exercise, relax, and learn.” For instance, the $53 million Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston, Ill., will feature a full-size hockey rink and gym for league sports, a 5,000-sf library branch, a pottery room, and rentable event spaces. [Source]

It is critical that planning for DCRC renovations be integrated with plans for an addition to the building.

Athletic Business prescribes key steps [Source] communities should take when planning new or renovated recreation and activity centers to reduce actual and perceived wear and tear on the building as it ages. These include:

  • Plan for wear and tear: Certain rec center features and spaces receive higher use and traffic and will show age regardless of preventive maintenance. These include entry walk-off mats, door finishes, countertops, and the corners of walls in popular pathways. In wet areas, toilet seats, hand sprayers, and showerheads are particularly susceptible to early wear. In workout areas, pads and upholstery on benches and machines, rub points on handgrips, and stripes on the track all show age prematurely. Observing facilities in other communities can help identify these high-impact spaces and should inform planning of your own facility.
  • Choose materials that can withstand high-impact use: Materials that are accessible to users in a typical recreation center must be extremely durable and should be selected accordingly. For example, extending weight room flooring up the wall 30 inches protects against damage from free weights while corner guards common in hospital design can protect high-traffic areas such as equipment issue and storage rooms, or areas trafficked with rolling carts. Cinder blocks are commonly specified in areas of greatest potential impact, including gymnasiums, multi-activity courts, and natatoriums. However, escalating facility construction costs have led more architects to specify drywall construction at least ten feet above the floor and coated with easy-to-clean pain to reduce signs of wear. Ceilings, high walls, sprinkler heads, light fixtures, and speakers all need to be selected carefully and protected from flying balls and other projectiles.
  • Select finishes that will be easy to clean and visually forgiving: Smart options include minimizing joints in floor tile to reduce spaces that might fill with dirt and always select a darker mortar; choosing a matte-finish tile; and running the jogging track surface up the wall 24 inches to avoid shoe marks when runners stretch against the wall.
  • Allocate funds in the operating and capital budget for refreshing spaces on a regular schedule: In addition to the project budget (furniture, fixtures and equipment [FF&E]), small improvements and repairs should be planned for in the annual operating budget. In some cases, annual operating budgets can be used as a bridge to larger capital refreshing and remodeling projects. Because many national brand contracts are set at ten year intervals, many dining venues use a seven to ten year planning and remodeling schedule for updating the look and function of their spaces. Recreation facility managers should consider this same model for keeping their spaces relevant both operationally and in terms of style. In addition to planning for regularly scheduled updating, the core elements of a facility operating system and any major remodeling projects should be considered and included in a long-range capital plan spanning ten to 20 years.
  • Establish a personal desktop reference guide: It is critical that a contact list of who installed various facility elements and features is maintained in an accessible electronic location. This will be essential when components of the center either need repair, replacement, or other maintenance, or even if questions arise about the materials used and their lifespans.
  • Discuss the lifecycle and life expectancy of finishes and fixtures during the planning phase: Communities only have one chance to ensure their rec centers are built to their satisfaction and contain materials and finishes that will stand the test of time. Rec center construction processes are notorious for product substitution after a bid has been awarded and construction has begun. Design teams should review every request for changes or alterations as issues of maintenance, durability, and warranties may be significantly altered.
  • Pay attention to warranties and product limitations: Similarly, communities developing rec centers must be prepared to fully investigate product and installation warranties, seeking out opportunities to extend warranties whenever possible. Many products in new centers are warranted for only a year or equally short timeframes. Design teams must regularly review the condition of warranted components to identify any products showing early failure or unusual wear before warranties expire.
  • Develop an aggressive cleaning program: A single day missed cleaning a recreational facility is like a week of neglect in any other building. There is a critical difference between standard custodial care and specialized housekeeping when cleaning general spaces and custom features and furniture. Routine daily cleaning, maintenance cleaning, and regularly scheduled deep cleaning are critical for keeping the building looking as new as possible.
  • Maintain adequate attic stock: Finishes, carpet styles, paint colors, and tiles typically cycle out of production every few years, making matching difficult when refreshing or renovating spaces. Facility managers should review attic stock annually and communicate regularly with vendors to learn if a product line is being altered or phased out.

Once the expanded recreation center is completed, administrators should evaluate its program statement annually. The program statement shapes the facility, informs architects and builders on constituent preferences, and defines uses for the center’s spaces. Reviewing the statement annually ensures that spaces are continually relevant to operations. Facility managers should not be afraid of experimenting with and repurposing existing, underutilized spaces.

Tactical implementation steps to advance enhanced indoor recreation capacity in Manchester are included in Appendix F.



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