• Home
  • Blogs
  • Configure Your Gymnasium Seating - Maximizing Space and the Audience Experience

Configure Your Gymnasium Seating

Maximizing Space and the Audience Experience

By Anne Chapman

April 30, 2020


Once a design team understands all the ways in which a space will be utilized they can begin to design for those different functions. Will the space be used strictly for competitions? Does it need to work for both physical education classes and competitions? Which sports? Does it need to be used for concerts or plays? Is there a requirement for more than one area to accommodate multiple games / meets that may be held at the same time?

Sports guidelines will dictate the depth of the perimeter for competition courts but it's vital to factor in space for team seating, judges and scorer’s tables, and spectator passage. Since most gymnasiums will also support the local community with non-sporting events, a flexible seating plan will allow the space to quickly transition for different types of events. Additional items to consider include wheelchair spaces, video platforms and differentiated seating areas that can be designated for parents, boosters or faculty.

The flexible nature of telescopic seating systems can help accommodate the variety of functions today's gymnasiums hold. Below we will illustrate and explain some of the options available for retractable seating.

Telescopic Seating Configurations

Wall Attached:

The most common type of retractable seating in a gym is where back of the telescopic bleacher seating is attached to the wall and extends out toward the court from there. These two images show a wall attached unit in the extended and stored (closed) positions.

Wall Attached Open position

Wall Attached Closed position


Recessed units are wall attached units that store in a pocket or alcove in the wall. This type of design requires additional square footage but allows the facility to curtain or panel off the bleachers when they are not in use. The illustrations below show the lower level with a recessed bleacher system that stores beneath the overhang of the second floor.

Recessed Open position

Recessed Closed position

Forward Fold:

Retractable bleacher units with a forward fold set up can be used to divide a large space in two for gym classes. The illustration below show two courts in a gym with a bleacher unit attached to the floor under the first row of seating. For classes the closed bleacher seating is stored between the two courts, acting as a wall. When seating is needed for a game or event the unit extends away from the court in the foreground over the court behind the unit.

Forward Reverse Fold Main Floor Closed

Forward Reverse Fold Main Floor Open

The most common use for a reverse fold unit is on a balcony. Often the balcony is equipped with the reverse fold bleacher seating unit which walls off the second floor from the first when closed. These units are enclosed with panels to prevent unauthorized access. The balcony can then be used for sports that don't require the space that basketball or volleyball require. For "big" games the bleachers are deployed for an impressive home court advantage. It's important to understand how a balcony impacts sightlines to the court, patron egress and safety.

Forward Reverse Fold closed

Forward Reverse Fold Balcony open

Portable Telescopic Systems

Movable telescopic seating units provide additional flexibility to gymnasiums that have high demand for seating and need the ability to set up the space in different ways. These portable units can be transported with an integral lift systems, as shown below.

Portable Moveable with integral lift

We hope you'll keep Irwin Seating in mind for your next gymnasium project! Our experienced team of professionals will work with you from architectural CAD drawings through code considerations to final layouts. Feel free to reach out to us to discuss your space.Visit our blogs frequently, for more mind share on what we do best!