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Lately I’ve been interested in trying to identify “critical success factors” for public petanque courts. One thing that I’ve noticed is that there seem to be three different models of usage for public petanque courts.
The first is the classical village square model, which is where petanque was developed and became popular in France. In this model, the petanque terrain is located in the center of a busy public place — the village square or perhaps a small park. The area is surrounded by businesses, especially restaurants and cafes. Because of the businesses and cafes the area has a lot of foot traffic. People meet there to chat on lunch breaks and after work. Despite being located in the heart of New York City, Bryant Park fits this model. In a way, this shouldn’t be surprising, because the village square model is an essentially urban model. It works because the petanque court is located right in the middle of an area where people live, work, eat, drink, meet, and socialize.
The second model is the rec center model. Many cities or counties have created recreation centers and large recreation parks. The parks typically contain multiple recreation facilities — a rec center for basketball, badminton, and gymnastics classes, a weight room, a swimming pool, one or more baseball diamonds, football fields and soccer fields, tennis courts, perhaps a volleyball court. There are jungle gyms for the younger kids to play on, and shaded benches where moms can sit and chat and watch the younger kids while their older siblings practice team sports. There are water fountains and restrooms. There may be outdoor grills and small shelters with picnic tables, so that the whole extended family can come for a big family Sunday-afternoon grill and picnic.
Above all, there is lots of parking. Where the village square model is an essentially urban model, depending on foot traffic from people who are already in the area, the rec center model is an essentially suburban model, based on the rec center acting as a magnet for people who want to use the recreation facilities that it provides. People aren’t already there. They come to it, sometimes from serious distances, and they come in cars. That’s why parking is an important component of the rec center model. Another important amenity is lighting that can allow afternoon play to continue on into the evening. This can be essential to the survival of some petanque clubs in winter, with winter’s shorter days.
A good example of this model are the petanque courts in the Virginia Highlands Park (photo, above), a vast recreation facility in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.
There is a third model, which I call the amenity model. Developers of housing developments or vacation trailer parks or camp sites sometimes provide petanque courts — well, in the United States, bocce courts — as amenities. Tucked into a quiet corner of the grounds of a high-rise or a mobile-home park or a retirement community or a large camp ground, you will sometimes find a swimming pool, perhaps a shuffleboard court, and perhaps a bocce court. A good example of this model are the petanque courts at Park West Mobile Homes Estates, a retirement community in Tucson, Arizona.
I’m not sure how successful the amenity model is in the USA. There certainly is a scattering of “amenity” bocce courts in this country, but I’m not sure how heavily the courts are actually used (although I understand that petanque courts are popular as amenities at many nudist resorts). But in France, at least judging from the old photos that I’ve seen on the Petanque America website, petanque is a standard part of the standard family vacation in August. Camp grounds often provide a petanque terrain, and when a dedicated terrain is not available, families play on the open dirt fields of the camp ground.