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Indoor year-round ice rink in triple-height atrium, glass partitions, seating for watching and changing gear

Designing for Health: Social Sports & Leisure Entertainment

Jose Sanchez

With the world focusing more on physical and mental health, an insurgence of retail mixed-use spaces has arisen, dedicated to providing sports-oriented concepts, getting families out of their homes, and engaging in the community through social-centric physical activity. There is, and always has been, demand for these spaces, but what mix of uses, innovative programming, and interactive elements attracts a global customer?

Entrance at Sport Society building with steel frame and red writing with yellow accents

Sport Society expresses the variety of a shopping mall centered around recreation.

A “Retailtainment” Concept Dedicated to Play

Variety is critical to keeping a consumer engaged, and the recreation market has expanded to provide different opportunities that meet the needs of diverse groups. The mall transformed the retail experience. Sport Society expands on the traditional mall concept by creating an 800,000-SF, five-floor, multi-purpose arena with endless sports, healthy food & beverage options, and lifestyle retail offerings. Its center houses the beating heart of the facility, an NHL-sized ice rink. At the same time, the public circulation at the upper levels serves as a walk/run track with single-loaded sports, leisure, retail, and food and beverage units.

The complex includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, a bowling alley, a trampoline park, a climbing and bouldering center, a snooker and billiard hall, golf and cricket simulators, and an activated roof with fields and courts for soccer, basketball, cricket, and tennis. Staying on-brand for a place of fitness and wellness, food and beverage tenants reflect physical well-being through healthy, organic options, allowing guests to play, socialize, and dine under one roof. A diverse set of sporting activities are available for all ages and fitness levels, providing a one-stop-shop for all things sports and entertainment, giving visitors a new experience each time they walk through the doors. Additionally, the central ice-skating rink can be transformed into a soccer pitch or an entertainment event space for planned programming throughout the year.

Visitors come for recreation, which by nature is constantly varied, so this keeps the concept fresh with visitors returning for a new game, experience, and additional amenities that complement the physical ones. Although it plays off the contemporary mall, a vast difference between the two is that the Sport Society experience can’t be accessed at home, unlike traditional retail. Yes, there are at-home exercise tools, but they can’t replicate the social camaraderie and various facilities like this. As global retail and entertainment evolve, sports-oriented leisure centers will be a significant player in this field.

Pickleball: The Real Dill

Like Sport Society, Real Dill Pickleball Club dovetails sports and social experiences. Real Dill provides the US with an unmatched opportunity to connect with friends and family through recreation and entertainment. As pickleball becomes the fastest-growing sport in America, we’re using our design expertise to create a national prototype, with the first two new member clubs dedicated to the sport launching in Columbus, OH, and outside of St. Louis, MO, with the prospect of expanding the brand throughout the US. Although more niche than Sport Society, Real Dill also celebrates sport through a modern concept that serves as a venue to connect and provides something for everyone.

Indoor Pickle Ball court with seating area, open beams, and custom lighting

Real Dill features five standard indoor courts and two outdoor courts.

Real Dill includes a series of unique connective social spaces where pickleball takes the center court, creating a complete and cohesive venue. The approximate 30,000-SF venue features distinct areas, including food & beverage, pickleball courts, and a family entertainment center, creating space for an equally fun experience for those dedicated to the sport and people focused on the social and leisure aspect. The entertainment center will feature ping-pong, cornhole, video games, and interactive play activities. With five standard indoor courts, including a central member and tournament court, and two outdoor courts that facilitate pickleball and wiffleball, the competitive members and those looking to get outside and be social are all welcome. Each venue seats 100+ guests in the full-service bar and dining area and outdoor dining patios that provide front-row access to the action.   

Food court in Pickle Ball area with skylights, natural daylight, custom lighting fixtures hang from high-ceilings, seating areas, and modern light wood furnishings

The pickleball experience is enhanced with dining and shopping amenities.

Sports, entertainment, and social fusion venues are becoming more significant than ever in established and growth markets. Facilities like Sport Society and Real Dill may have the solution to keep people returning consistently, the magic success factor for retail. With the influx of technology, plenty of digital tools keep us occupied, but the need for these spaces has only increased. These mixed-use concepts do more than keep us busy; they unite people and promote a healthy lifestyle and community.

Explore what else Dubai’s top sports entertainment center has to offer.

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Jose Sanchez
Connect with me to start a conversation ➔ Jose Sanchez, Mixed-Use Design Leader


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