LPA’s Arash Izadi on Strategies for College Recreation Reopenings

The key to reopening college recreation centers is to focus on student life and the wellbeing of students, in addition to the pandemic safety protocols, LPA Director of Sport + Rec Arash Izadi said during an online panel discussion hosted by college recreation association NIRSA.

The NIRSA event, “Ideas in Motion: "Ask an Architect: Reopening Considerations from NIRSA Architects," focused on facility reopenings and guidelines for safely bringing students back into recreation facilities. Considerations for future renovations and new buildings were also among the topics discussed during the event, which attracted representatives from colleges and universities across the country.

The virtual roundtable discussion started with a focus on short term solutions for reopening facilities, including highlighting the need to change behaviors to improve safety and meet local health requirements, but quickly migrated to mid and long-term considerations. Many recreation leaders are already 4-6 months into implementing new sanitation and social distancing measures, Izadi said.

“In the mid-term, it’s really about modifying operations and facilities,” Izadi said.

In the months ahead, it will be essential to address the many issues facing students as they return to campus. Tailoring facilities to the different student needs is paramount when thinking about developing strategies for safe recreation facilities, Izadi said.

Walls may need to be shifted, fitness areas re-zoned and, equipment rearranged to meet safety requirements and make students feel more comfortable, Izadi said. Programming if possible, can be expanded to the outdoors where there’s fresh air and more room to social distance, Izadi said.

Beyond safety, providing students with spaces that support their health and wellness will help attract students to campus and draw non-traditional users to recreational facilities, Izadi said.

“When you look at the long-term, we should think about the whole idea of how you develop recreation within a campus,” Izadi said. In any facility, it is important to “create recreational amenities – focused or broad-based – around student life,” Izadi said.

Izadi also emphasized the importance of designing sustainable spaces that have proper building orientation, utilize efficient HVAC systems, natural ventilation and light to avoid excess costs that can take away from programing.

“It is more important than ever to think about sustainable strategies,” Izadi said. “You can focus your energies and costs on different issues related to addressing health and wellbeing, rather than temperature control.”

The full recording is available on the NIRSA website.