Seek Shelter

By Mary Helen Sprecher

There was a time when sunburns and peeling skin were as much a part of summer for kids as bare feet and cutoffs. Accordingly, parents thought it was healthier for kids to have some color than pale faces.

Much has changed in the way we view the sun, and the way we protect ourselves from it. These days, sunscreen is routine (and even waterproof), and sports clothing carries sun-protection factor ratings.

And while much activity still occurs outdoors, those who are playing outside or just relaxing don't mind being protected from burning (or at least from overexposure).

Fortunately, there are still simple shade solutions, such as beach umbrellas, but there are also many newer and more easily maintained options.

Have It Made in the Shade, On Your Budget
Various options exist to create shade. They may be permanent (like gazebos, pergolas, picnic shelters, and more), or temporary (like pop-up tents). There are shelters made with metal or wood posts and awnings, tension-supported structures, metal shelters, and those made of regular building materials like brick and wood.

Structures may be as expensive as a custom-made shelter in camp colors that fits over a specific area, or as low-tech as a table with an umbrella purchased at a big-box store.

Shop carefully and wisely. A shelter that is too cheaply made may not hold up for more than one season. Wind, rain, sunlight, and other factors can contribute to early wear and tear. Investigate warranties and read any consumer reviews regarding product performance.

Location, Location, Location
Remember that any place people gather, shade should be available. Of course, if an area is heavily wooded, the need for shade structures may be greatly decreased; however, shelters also come in handy in the event of rain.

Some areas where shade structures should be considered are:

• Picnic areas
• Playgrounds
• Swimming pools or splash pads
• Athletic facilities (tennis courts, volleyball courts, sports fields, running tracks, and others)
• Outside meal halls or community areas
• Various points along walking paths
• Areas outside cabins or lodges
• Areas outside any buildings, such as offices for health professionals or guidance counselors, where campers might have to wait for an appointment.

Placement of shelters is essential, and for safety's sake, a few quick considerations should be kept in mind. If, for example, shade shelters are placed near a playground, they should be constructed in a way that allows counselors or supervisors to see and hear children at all times.

However, benches or shade shelters located outside offices for health professionals or guidance counselors should be placed far enough from the building to ensure the privacy of those within.

Remember that kids often get excited around facilities like swimming pools, and will run back and forth (despite lifeguards’ repeated warnings not to do so). Make sure shade shelters are set far enough back so that children don't accidentally run into them.

If a shade shelter is placed near a sports facility, its presence must not interfere with play, or cause any danger to players. Although many sports areas, including but not limited to tennis courts, volleyball courts, sports fields, running tracks, and more have areas bounded by playing lines, athletes who are in the midst of a game often overrun the area; therefore, it is essential never to place shade structures (nor any other equipment) too close to the playing area.

Many sports have rules governing this overrun zone, and/or the placement of equipment outside the lines, and camp administrators should make sure they are using the most current version of the rules when making placement decisions.

For example, if the camp includes tennis courts, shade structures must be placed outside the playing area. A clearance of 12 feet from a sideline to any fixed object is recommended. If shade structures are located between two courts, they should be placed within 12 feet of the net line and at least 10 feet from a sideline.

Players are more likely to see and be aware of a structure located on the long side of the court toward the middle than they are of something located behind the baseline. In all cases, however, observe the rules, and if in doubt, allow more (rather than less) space.

If you're planning on adding a shade structure near one or more of the camp's sports facilities, ask the advice of a specialty contractor with expertise in that sport. That person will know the rules and be able to offer recommendations based on player population, budget, and the facility.

A Little Or A Lot Of Shade?
Shade structures may be used for spot cover (meaning single areas, such as a table with an umbrella, or a pop-up tent that can be put up over a registration area at an event), for larger groups of people (such as a shelter that covers a set of bleachers, or perhaps an awning that covers a team bench that would otherwise be in the sun), or for an entire area.

An example of a large, permanent shade structure would be an outdoor pavilion where dozens of people gather for picnics, meals, or meetings.

Those whose camps are in areas where the weather is rainy will be asked about the possibility of putting canopies over facilities, such as volleyball courts, tennis courts, or other large areas. Is this possible? Yes, it is; however, be aware that certain parameters exist.

A playground can be ”tented” or covered relatively easily, provided the overhead space is adequate to ensure the safety of the children using the equipment.

A sports facility, though, is a different matter, since, in most cases, overhead clearances are dictated by the same governing bodies who set all the other rules.

Scrutinize the rules and speak with a sports-facility contractor who has the expertise before making any promises to campers, parents, or staff. Remember that covering a sports facility may create new needs, such as lighting, electricity, and more. A professional will be able to guide you in these matters as well.

You'll always have sun worshipers at camp, but with any luck, you'll be able to teach them that shade can be very cool too.

Note: The American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) is a non-profit association helping designers, builders, owners, operators, and users understand quality sports-facility construction. The ASBA publishes newsletters, books, and technical construction guidelines for athletic facilities. Available at no charge is a listing of all publications offered by the Association, as well as the ASBA’s Membership Directory. Info: 866-501-ASBA (2722) or .

Mary Helen Sprecher has been a technical writer for more than 20 years with the American Sports Builders Association. She has written on various topics relating to sports-facility design, construction and supply, as well as sports medicine, education, health, and industrial issues. She is an avid racquetball and squash player, and a full-time newspaper reporter in Baltimore, Md.