10/2-2022Street sports facilities lower the threshold to sports

There is a need to re-think sports facilities, if sports and culture is to be accessible to more people. The GAME House concept has succeeded in this, transforming obsolete industrial buildings into inclusive street sports facilities. according to a new report from the University of Southern Denmark, which emphasizes that it pays off to think of facilities, partnerships and activities together in order to lower the threshold for active communities.

GAME’s four houses in Esbjerg, Copenhagen, Viborg and Aalborg are all flexible facilities dedicated to street sports and street culture. They vary in architecture, design and activities, and each of them function as hubs for positive communities.

From 2018 to 2021, the Center for Research in Sports, Health and Civil Society at the University of Southern Denmark has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the three newest GAME Houses; Esbjerg, Aalborg and Viborg.

After just a few years, the three GAME Houses have become a place for children and young people to gather. Already in 2019, one year after the opening, the facilities in Aalborg and Viborg had more than 50.000 annual attendances. The local partners interviewed in the evaluation all point out that the GAME Houses has made street sports more accessible, both for children and young people, but also for schools and institutions in the municipalities.

Below is a breakdown of the evaluations:
Architecture fosters communities across backgrounds
Requires a bigger effort to get girls involved
Lowers the threshold for sports participation
Re-thinking municipalities’ ways of operating sports- and cultural facilities
Contributes to the innovation of sports facilities in the future 

Architecture fosters communities across backgrounds
The evaluation from the University of Southern Denmark shows that the children and young people who use the facilities are very satisfied, and believe that the houses meet their needs. The décor in the individual GAME houses plays a crucial role in creating synergy between the members and the activities. The concept of gathering many different activities in one GAME house helps make the houses feel more special than traditional facilities. Elements such as the huge, central stairway in the middle of Aalborg’s GAME House, and the wooden grandstand in Viborg’s GAME house, play a significant role in creating contact between the different groups of people, doing different kinds of sports, according to the evaluation.

In addition, all the houses have lounge areas with games like ping pong and foosball table, which are very popular with the members. It creates an easier way for the users who don’t necessarily do the same sports to meet and hang out together. Most of the GAME Houses’ users have participated in sports with people whom they didn’t already know.

Lowers the threshold for sports participation
Street sports are one of the fastest growing sports and have the potential to attract children and young people who don’t necessarily find their way into traditional sports clubs. The evaluation shows that 13% of GAME’s users didn’t participate in sports before they started coming in their local GAME House.

I would say, that if you can get 13% that haven’t been physically active before to participate in sports, you’re doing better than most other,” says one of the municipal leaders from Viborg municipality in the evaluation.

GAME House Viborg has particularly impressive results in regards to creating equal opportunities for children and young people. Here, 34% of the daily users come from a minority background, whereas only 7% is the average for the municipality’s other sports associations.

Innovating municipalities’ way of operating sports and cultural facilities
The various other sports facilities around Denmark are doing fairly well, but with GAME Houses, several municipal managers have gotten a new approach to how to operate a sports and cultural facility. It also creates a nice supplement to the existing sports facilities in Denmark.

The municipal’s managers and consultants also point out that GAME Houses has helped put street sports and culture on the political agenda, as well as created a bigger understanding for- and belief in the fact that children and young people can create their own, positive communities.” according to the conclusion from the University of Southern Denmark.

According to GAME, it’s important to point out that the GAME House facilities are not be seen as competing facilities to other sports facilities in Denmark, but more as a supplement. A point of view which is backed up by the evaluation through interviews with local communities, who work together with GAME. They also experience greater visibility and more members.

Requires a bigger effort to get girls involved
Gender inequality in sports participation is a well-known and well documented fact. The GAME Houses experience the same challenge of getting girls involved, as the Danish Health Authorities points out as in Denmark. In 2019, the biggest dropout rate ever was seen amongst teenagers, and only 19% of girls in this age category live up to the recommendations on physical health.

The evaluations of the three GAME Houses reveal several trends in which girls’ behavior differs from boys’ behavior. For example, girls and women are a lot less active than boys and men, with people of a different age than their own. This mirrors both research in the field, as well as GAME’s and the LOA Foundation’s mapping, showing that girls in particular use the sports facilities as a social meeting place and that the social aspect around an activity is often more important than the actual activity performed. For many girls, the sports facility is a social arena rather than a sports arena.

The evaluation supports the need for some of the projects that GAME is working on in relation to girls’ participation, and which focus on more community and multisport activities led by young female role models. As an example, based on fieldwork, GAME has published 10 tips for including girls in street sports and developed special girl concepts both in the GAME Houses and in GAME Zones in at-risk communities.

Contributes to the innovation of sports facilities in the future
The evaluation is based on analyses, ethnographic field observations, interviews and surveys, in which members also participated, from three GAME Houses in Denmark, in the period 2018 to 2021. The results give an important insight into the future development of specific facilities and can also contribute to the innovation of future facilities.

We now have experience from four different facilities that all have the same purpose; to lower the threshold for active and positive communities, and to give young people a special role in the creation and development of these. It’s a unique way of casting the facilities of the future,” says Ayhan Can, director of Facilities at GAME. 

Find the evaluation here 

The three GAME Houses have been created in collaboration between GAME, Viborg, Esbjerg and Aalborg Municipality, Realdania, TrygFonden, Lokale og Anlægsfonden, Nordea-fonden and Det Obelse Familiefond. 

GAME House Esbjerg and Viborg were designed by EFFEKT Architects and GAME House Aalborg by JaJa Architects. GAME House Aalborg won the IOC IAKS Award in Bronze (2021). 

GAME House Viborg won the Statens Kunstfond Award (2021), IOC IAKS Award in Gold (2020) and Building of the Year, Sports Architecture, Archdaily (2019). 

GAME House Esbjerg won Esbjerg Kommunes Byfond (2016).