Mapping access to sporting facilities

The University of South Wales (USW) has been working with Sport Wales to map accessibility to sports facilities in a new way.

Dr Mitchel Langford and Professor Gary Higgs from the Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Research Centre at USW and WISERD have been developing user-friendly tools that show how accessible sports facilities are across Wales.

A Geographical Information System (GIS) has been used to compute a supply-to-demand measure based on distance/travel time catchments around facilities. A GIS enables the input, storage, management, analysis and visualisation of data on a map, which presents a powerful set of tools for researchers.

As part of the project, funded through the Sport Wales’ Illuminate Scheme which awards research grants to help develop insight into participation in sport in Wales, the university team created a bespoke Add-In for Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop and Network Analyst.

It was designed to take users with absolutely no expertise in geographic information systems (GIS) through the analysis process in a series of simple-to-follow steps, making it possible for anyone to gain a clear, accurate understanding of the potential usage of sports facilities.

GIS mapping of sports facilities - bowling greensThe Add-In draws on Sport Wales’ ownArcGIS database of sporting facilities and uses open source Ordnance Survey road network datasets that allows the organisation to perform analysis by travel distance, age, gender and socio-economic status to different types of sporting facilities for the first time.

Sport Wales is working with the Welsh Government and key stakeholders to prepare proposals that will help to deliver an effective, efficient and sustainable local, regional and national network of facilities for sport and active recreation. These analytical tools show how bespoke GIS tools can be used to provide a base-line ‘state-of-play’ with which to monitor the impacts of future changes in the provision of sports facilities in Wales.

Professor Gary Higgs, said: “The use of GIS in this project shows just one of the ways that we can use mapping technology to help organisations and services better understand how accessible their services are. This is vital when they are looking at where there may be gaps or less consistent provision.

“Sport Wales can now use this Add-In within a GIS to pinpoint those communities that could benefit from increased levels of provision and provide policy makers with potentially powerful tools to help improve participation rates amongst those demographic groups with consistently low levels of physical activity.”

Dr Jonathan Radcliffe, Research & Evaluation Officer at Sport Wales said: “This collaboration between Sport Wales and USW has huge potential for improving evidence based decision making with regards to facilities for sport. Only by working together can we inform long term, sustainable decision-making on the design, provision and maintenance of sport and recreation facilities and this project will help to steer us in the right direction. Using the GIS add-in, we can harness the power of GIS spatial modelling, with minimal training, enabling us to help partners (e.g. National Governing Bodies of Sport) maximise the value of their local knowledge and data.”

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