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HOK’s James Braam Discusses the Design Process for Recreation Facilities

James Braam HOK

For the design of public and campus recreation facilities, identifying and collaborating with stakeholders is crucial to the project’s success. James Braam, a director of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice, explores the design process.

Excerpted from Athletic Business:

Whether a community-based project or college recreation project, identifying a project’s stakeholders is a similar process. Stakeholders should be selected to represent all interests related to the design of a facility, from the different departments and organizations that will use the facility to class instructors and maintenance personnel. This list may include university administrators, student government members, facilities personnel, university athletics officials, athletic teams, coaches, alumni, community groups, campus neighbors and donors—anyone with an interest in the facility or university.

“We encourage the university to invite as many stakeholders as possible to the table,” says James Braam, a director of HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice based in Kansas City. “Beginning with the very first meeting, we want to be sure everyone feels welcome, everyone has a voice. We begin with the attitude and promote a realization that the project is primarily about the students and campus community.”

Public recreation projects can be more complex in their development, and thus might start with only a couple of initial stakeholders — possibly partners — and then expand to larger focus groups, including neighbors and likely end-users.

The assessment of potential stakeholders is a continuous consideration, as planners circle back frequently to identify additional individuals and groups associated with the project. Project skeptics should also be invited and encouraged to participate in the process, adds Braam. “The consistent message is that we want people to dream, while also understanding the parameters.”

“This building will be unique to them,” Braam says. “The stakeholders are making decisions, and we are facilitating.”

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