CityStreet Residential’s Domain at Morgan’s Landing community in Houston features a beer garden with a variety of lawn games.
Hugh Hargrave Photography CityStreet Residential’s Domain at Morgan’s Landing community in Houston features a beer garden with a variety of lawn games.

With an ever-present focus on mental health and well-being, multifamily firms are looking for ways to draw residents outdoors. Roughly 50% of all apartment households in the U.S. are one person, according to 2021 American Community Survey microdata, U.S. Census Bureau—a number that is quite lonely in a time of remote work and social media.

Expansive resort-style pools, outdoor kitchens, lounge-worthy cabanas, beer gardens, and cozy fire pit areas can set the scene for residents to relax and dine al fresco while also meeting neighbors, but a little healthy competition can also help. The trend of gaming lawns or courtyards has emerged as an easy-to-add amenity for existing communities and for new ones.

“By taking a deep dive into how we can elevate the resident experience, we’ve found new and creative ways to build an environment they genuinely want to spend time in,” says Mark Farrell, president of development at Presidium.

The multifamily developer, owner, and operator has seen a growing interest in bocce ball, cornhole, Ping-Pong, and pickleball amid its list of outdoor amenities, including unique lounge “caves,” rooftop lounging decks, and Zen courtyards. “These games offer opportunities for friendly competition, team building, and outdoor recreation, making them popular choices among multifamily residents,” Farrell notes.

Candid interaction can foster a sense of community between residents, especially at newly opened communities where everyone is a fresh face. Currently under construction in Forney, Texas, is the 336-unit Legacy Gateway, a joint venture between Legacy Partners and The Resmark Cos.

While development plans include pickleball and bocce ball courts, there will also be a turf lawn for cornhole toss and another open green space for additional games and activities. Nestled between the two courts and the turf lawn will be a covered seating area for residents to watch the action.

“Gaming lawns are a very desirable draw for residential communities because they’re intended to be an activated outdoor amenity that generates socializing and recreation,” says Brian McNally, vice president of development and acquisitions at Legacy Partners. “Particularly with people working from home more, there is a strong draw for activities to break up the day. We all know pickleball is in huge demand, but so are yard games in general. It offers a more interactive amenity than just having a pool.”

Thompson Thrift Residential creates game or flex lawns using artificial turf, often oriented around the pools, in most of its communities. The properties offer a variety of games from Yardzee to giant Connect 4 and fowling, a hybrid game of bowling and football. Senior director of civil and landscape design Sara Topolosek says the implementation of artificial turf for flex lawns provides low-maintenance, year-round use for games and lounging.

Residents of Thompson Thrift Residential’s The Sophia in Venice, Florida, can enjoy poolside cornhole and lawn games on artificial turf.
Thompson Thrift Residents of Thompson Thrift Residential’s The Sophia in Venice, Florida, can enjoy poolside cornhole and lawn games on artificial turf.

“We are intentional in designing our pool decks as the outdoor entertainment hub at our communities. It’s important to provide multiple activities and pockets to allow residents to gather publicly but separately when needed. Artificial turf lawns activate the space while adding additional flexibility, texture, and interest,” adds Clint Garrison, director of resident experience and innovation at Thompson Thrift Residential.

With attention to detail, the materials and games added to the space can last for many seasons. Glen Collins, founder of lifestyle brand Autside, says that high-quality construction of games and accessories not only improve overall curb appeal of properties, but reduce the need for maintenance, repairs, and replacement. “This can save owners money in the long run while reducing waste and environmental impact,” he says.

Noting that it’s important to offer game accessories of safer, high-quality materials, especially for those involving physical activity or flying objects, Collins also shares, “When selecting outdoor lifestyle products, considering products that are manufactured by companies that prioritize ethical considerations, such as fair labor practices and responsible sourcing of materials, can be good for the planet and apartment owners’ reputation (especially relative to ESG) and revenues. This can be a positive draw for residents, as well.”

The ability to enjoy these gaming spaces and their activities without leaving the community is also a bonus for residents, according to Tangia Pinkney, regional manager at Morgan Properties in South Florida. Its South Florida communities have implemented games into existing courtyards and have converted old tennis courts into multiuse outdoor areas for activities ranging from open-air fitness to foosball and pickleball.

She says, “The post-COVID resident experience has some individuals seeking every opportunity to get outside and engage with friends outside of their communities. However, we have found that most Morgan Properties residents love being able to enjoy recreational activities with their family and friends in our community without having to leave the comfort and convenience of the property. Having these amenities available within a short walk from their front door has increased satisfaction.”

CityStreet Residential’s popular beer gardens with warm touches of string lights, fire pits, and gathering tables are accented by yard games including table tennis, bocce ball, washer toss, and cornhole. “The idea is to have a flexible activity area that can entertain multiple gatherings. It’s meant to be a casual environment,” says chief investment officer John Cutrer.

“You might see a group of friends grilling, roommates playing Ping-Pong, a family playing washers, or a couple enjoying a glass of wine by the fire pit, just watching the evening go by,” Cutrer shares. “It’s an attractive setting and an amenity that can be used year-round.”