Leisure Opportunities: Maria Sharapova and Dan Meis join forces to design boutique sport and fitness facilities
By Kim Megson
Tennis star Maria Sharapova has joined forces with US sports architect Dan Meis to start a new design venture creating “inspirational” health, fitness, sporting and wellness facilities for the hospitality sector.
Inspired, in part, by hotelier Ian Schrager’s boutique hotel revolution, the pair are already in talks to create branded experience-led training venues for hotels, resorts and sports clubs that will help budding and professional athletes reach their peak performance.
They will provide design services, operational consultation and licensing advice for a wide range of facilities – from large-scale tennis resorts to individual hotel fitness rooms and spas focused on well-being and recovery from injury.
“The concept all goes back to an idea I had a few years ago,” Meis told CLAD. “And that is that while sports architects are really good at thinking about how sports venues affect the fan experience, we don’t always think a lot about the players’ perspectives on the venues.
“At one point I spoke to Andrew Luck, a star NFL quarterback who trained as an architect at Stanford, because I was interested in meeting someone with an architectural background who is also a world-class athlete, and we talked about collaborating someday.
“Later, I was following Maria on social media and the idea came back to me, because I saw she had a really strong sense of design and ideas about architecture, and I reached out to collaborate.
“From the start, she talked about how she had grown up playing tennis since childhood, but always found that the training places where young players spend so much of their lives aren’t particularly inspirational. So that became our starting point.”
Meis said that the duo are considering what inspires an athlete to train and become world-class, “and how architecture should play a role in that – the same way a university inspires a student or a studio inspires an artist.”
He compared the approach to the one successfully adopted by Schrager in the 1980s when introduced the world to the boutique hotel lifestyle with his Morgans brand.
“When he created that wave of boutique hotels, he really changed that industry,” Meis said. “It was about curating experiences – from the uniforms of the staff to the stationery, the music, the smells. That was an aspect Maria is really excited about. This is not just architecture, it’s everything you feel and touch.
“At the moment, the fitness centre in the average hotel tends to be a leftover space they just put some equipment in as almost an afterthought. We want to change all that. We’ll use integrated landscapes and a lot of natural materials to communicate a green healthy lifestyle.
“While it’s not rocket science – there are certainly health and wellness clubs that have figured this out – we think we can bring another level of design perspective to it.”
Meis revealed the pair are already in talks with potential partners and hope to have “one or two” projects underway by the end of this year.
“We’ve been proactive in approaching people. Each project will be a little different depending on the owner, operator and location. We want to create partnerships with hotels, resorts, country clubs, you name it. It’s a pretty broad market – both luxury properties and less so – and goes way beyond only tennis.”
The collaboration is tentatively called Sharapova/MEIS, but the architect said it could be renamed ‘Unstoppable’ after Sharapova’s recently-published autobiography.
Sharapova has competed on the WTA tour since 2001 and has been ranked world No 1 on several occasions, winning a career Grand Slam in the process.
Meis, who helped design the Staples Center in LA, is currently working on high-profile football stadiums in three different countries, for AS Roma, Everton FC and FC Cincinnati.