Boggy puddles, patchy grass and fading paint.
The sorry state of many of our local sports grounds is making it harder to attract kids outdoors, research by the University of Technology Sydney suggests.
The research team studied 26 playing fields in Sydney’s inner western suburbs and found that many had dirty toilets, poor lighting at night, dirt patches, uneven surfaces, poor water drainage, and missing or worn painted lines. Most also did not have easy public transport access.
A survey of 1,100 youngsters aged 9 to 17 in the area found that only two-thirds felt their neighbourhood sports grounds were well-maintained.
This lack of care may lead young people to choose the couch over the park, the researchers say. “Both perceived quality of and access to the environment can affect physical activity,” they write.
“To engage more young people in sport, we need to create environments that are youth-centered in terms of quality and accessibility.”
On the back of their findings, they have made a series of recommendations for councils and town planners.
For example, the ideal sports park would be in a central public transport hub rather than tucked away, they advise. “To maximise use, parks and sport facilities must be integrated into neighbourhoods, rather than placed on their edges,” they write.
It would also accommodate a range of sports, be well-lit at night, and have cafes for parents and playgrounds for young children, they add.
But the most important thing, they say, is that “it would be well maintained and beautifully designed so that people would want to be there.”
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