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Sports Infrastructure and Urban Development

Werkstatt: Praxis Issue 73, Ed.: BMVBS, Berlin 2011

Project management BBSR:
Martina Kocks, Michael Zarth


Context and objective target

Urban development and sports development are closely related. Demographic change and shifting demands in sports and physical activity require new standards in the development of communal sports infrastructure. Consequences of the changed demands result in increasing misfits of current demand and existing supply of public sports infrastructure. Considering the increasing share of elder people in urban population, decreasing numbers of children, youths and families, new concepts of planning are needed to meet differentiated demands. The interdependence of sports and urban development has to be taken into account, especially since sports and physical activity can contribute to social integration and improve the quality of living in urban quarters. A suitable sports infrastructure, new urban premises and improved programs for sports and physical activity add to the purpose of urban development. Reduced public funding limits the possibilities of the proper maintenance and necessary adjustment of existing sports infrastructure to new demands. Simultaneously, the increasing availability of public areas and under-utilization of existing sports facilities open up new approaches for optimizing the supply of public sports infrastructure. Therefore, the interlocking of urban and sports development can be a valuable integrative approach.

Against this backdrop, the ExWoSt research area of sports infrastructure and urban development was established to analyze:

  • which consequences occur and measures, stakeholder levels and sponsorships have to be addressed,
  • how local public areas can be revalued through sport and physical activity,
  • how the situation for voluntary sports clubs can be improved to promote social integration through sports and physical activity,
  • which structural and other requirements have to be met for an adequate management of sports facilities and public areas,
  • which functions and role can be fulfilled by the voluntary sports sector.

Analytical Approach and selected pilot projects

The approach is based on a broad understanding of sports, interpreted as multiple forms of physical activity which can be performed regardless of age, gender, social and cultural background. Physical activity can be practiced in private or public places, either alone or in community with others. Its purpose can range from physical, mental or social wellbeing to enhancing physical and mental performance. In the approach of interlocking sports and urban development the term of sports infrastructure is also a broad one. It includes the whole communal living environment. Therefore, the term is comprised by traditional sports facilities as well as public and private places that can be used for sports and physical activity.

After a call for projects by the BBR in December 2008, 21 municipalities submitted 22 applications. Six pilot projects were chosen in March 2009 by the BBSR, supported by the Deutsche Olympische Sportbund (DOSB). The selection was supposed to cover a broad spectrum of subjects within the research area. The six pilot projects were exemplary for different spatial plan-ning levels, which are classified in location-based, neighborhood-based, communal overall planning and inter-communal concepts.

Location-based Concept

Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg: Quartiersbad Baerwaldstraße

A former publicly operated indoor pool, which is in strong need of reconstruction, is supposed to be run by a non-profit association. The indoor pool was constructed in art nouveau and is surrounded by socially deprived neighborhoods. In its early stages the reconstruction was supported
by public programs of professional qualification for youths. To improve the economic efficiency and extended usage of the building surplus spaces were developed to accommodate sports and physical activity.

Key terms from the 3rd ExWoSt-project workshop in DresdenKey terms from the 3rd ExWoSt-project workshop in Dresden, 24-09-2010 Source: Osnabrück University

Neighborhood-based Concepts

Dresden: Updating of an existing sports development strategy

In Dresden an existing strategy for sports development has been given concrete form at the level of different urban areas. Both planning levels have been fed back into each other. The development of local public areas for sports and physical activity as an addition to traditional sports facilities is of central importance.

Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg: Multi-purpose trails

Along the lines of the well-known "multi-propose trails" of metropolitan areas in the United States of America a network concept of public areas and traditional sports facilities was developed to promote physical activity within the local population. Key features are the participation of the local population and the examination of technical and organizational challenges of integrating sports and physical into public areas and all day traffic.

Communal overall planning

Büdelsdorf: User-oriented approach to sports and infrastructural development

As a vital part of urban development a strategy of sports development was created in Büdelsdorf to interconnect sports facilities, public areas and local programs of sports and physical activities throughout the city to meet the demands of different user groups. Simultaneously, the organizational development of the voluntary sports sector was promoted as well as the city profile of Büdelsdorf as an active community.

Minden: Integrative urban development - education and sports

All-day schooling is an increasing development in Germany's education sector. With it come substantial changes in the leisure activities of children and youths. Sports and physical activities will be heavily affected by it. The same applies to the utilization of publicly infrastructure and the sports clubs infrastructures. Within the pilot project new policy goals and instruments were developed to cope with these challenges.

Inter-communal concept

County of Teltow-Fläming: Inter-communal sports development

Through inter-communal cooperation of 14 municipalities a common strategy of goals and measures for the development of sports infrastructure and programs of physical activity was compiled. Based on empirical analyses, the inter-communal sports development was accompanied by a moderation of political interests based on partnership and exceeds the formal mission of a county.

The pilot projects and participating local authorities were counseled by the research assistance. In a series of three project workshops the persons responsible for each pilot project were able to present preliminary results of their development progress and share good practices between each other. Purpose of the interactive research approach was the development of knowledge-based networks in the field of urban and sports development.


The following aspects can be combined to the central results of the ExWoSt research area "Sportstätten und Stadtentwicklung":

  • The approach to planning public sports infrastructure currently changes from sectoral to interdisciplinary. Based on a broad understanding of sports and physical activity a broader understanding of the concept of sports infrastructure, including traditional sports facilities as well as public areas, has developed. It has to be used as a link to strengthen the mutual integration of urban and sports development.
  • Programs of sports and physical activity can contribute to social integration in urban neighborhoods. To make use of this potential such programs have to meet differentiated demands and therefore have to be developed according to the needs of different target groups.
  • As a consequence of demographic change the demands of sports and physical activities in urban population change. Sports development has to react to that. The necessary infrastructure has to be developed through the cooperation of sports stakeholders, local politics and administration.
  • A dialogical goal finding process opens up possibilities for locally adapted programs of sports and physical activity, which have to take account of shifted demands in sports and physical activity as well as different demands on public premises. To comply with new requirements there is a need for evidence-based analyses.
  • Requirements of sustainability and technical areas of improvement often lead to the need of structural alterations of existing infrastructure. In connection with the demand-oriented development of sports programs, sports facilities and public areas have to be more inter-connected.
  • A variety of efficient sports programs and restricted public budgets create the need of new forms of organization, public-private cooperation and new models of private sponsorship.
  • In urban development sport and physical activity were historically linked to the educational sector. Therefore, it was treated under a sectoral approach. The strategic, participatory, dialogic and project-related approach of urban development offers new possibilities to integrate sports and physical activity as new instruments into cross-sectoral urban development strategies.

The distinction between different planning levels, the configuration of the development process, the interlocking of sports infrastructure-planning with other subjects and the process-control through dialogue, cooperation and participation are key elements of a qualitative realignment of sports development as a vital part of urban development. Both the results of the pilot projects and the analysis of national research come to the same result: Interagency, participation and dialogue involving the public view have come to be standard policy tools in urban development and are increasingly recognized as helpful instruments for developing sports, physical activity and the needed infrastructure.

Policy recommendations

The results generated by the ExWoSt research area and the evaluation of additional national research considering the shifting demand in physical activities show the first signs of a qualitative realignment of sports development. Approaches of sectoral planning in sports development in local administrations have to be replaced by an integrative cross-sectoral approach in the development of sports infrastructure. Its local planning needs to be a part of integrative sports development. Both can be vital parts of public policies in the field of urban development. The development of sports infrastructure and urban premises for sports and physical activity is the interface between sports and urban development.

Impressions from the 3rd ExWoSt-project workshop in DresdenImpressions from the 3rd ExWoSt-project workshop in Dresden, 24-09-2010 Source: Osnabrück University

The voluntary sports clubs are to be included into the process of sports development. Therefore, more knowledge has to be generated about the opportunities and restrictions of voluntary club structures within sports development. A link to the organizational development of voluntary sports clubs has to be established.

The shifting demands in sports and physical activities lead to an extended use of public premises and areas. Their development can add to an improved quality of living and social revaluing of urban neighborhoods. To overcome the reorganization and modernization traffic jam in sports infrastructure is the central challenge for the years coming. Local authorities should only start development projects and be granted public subsidies when pursuing an integrative approach of sports development. The development of sports infrastructure has to take local requirements into consideration and it has to focus on traditional facilities as well as on public spaces. Standard norms have yet to be developed. They have to include the aspect of sustainability, innovative forms of facility management and the interdependence between voluntary work and the impact of professionalization.

Funding programs and policy tools of urban development reach into the interface of sports and urban development. Without them many activating and infrastructural projects would not be possible. For the future development of these funding programs and policy tools possibilities and requirements have to be reviewed for an increased involvement of sport and physical activity.

The abstract is part of the German publication "Sportstätten und Stadtentwicklung", Werkstatt: Praxis Heft 73, Hrsg.: BMVBS, Berlin 2011 - out of print
ISBN 978-3-87994-974-8, urn:nbn:de:101:1-201105273838