Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center
By Sutton R. Stokes
It's a budgeting problem more cities probably wish they had: how best to spend the approximately $10 million donated to the city by a recreation-minded benefactor looking to provide indoor and outdoor facilities for residents' play and exercise. The city of Moscow, Idaho, is lucky enough to have this problem and is proceeding as most small towns with limited tax bases would: carefully and prudently, making every dollar stretch.
Take the latest addition to Moscow's recreation facility portfolio, for example. The 21,000-square-foot Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center, which opened in June 2004 and is named for the above-mentioned generous donor, was completed for only $2.78 million. While the building doesn't have a lot of frills, the design team was able to create a comfortable, stylish ambience—indoors and out—that was much more pleasing to clients and community members than the big, raw-boned shoebox some neighbors had feared.
Where the exterior was concerned, the architectural language already was set by the existing pool facility, explains Melissa McFadgen, project architect and designer. As well, residents of the surrounding neighborhood of detached, single-family homes were concerned that their new neighbor was going to overwhelm them. According to Moscow Recreation Supervisor Greg Morrison, who oversees the facility, McFadgen and her team—from the Spokane-based Northwest Architectural Company—handled these potential obstacles well.
"The architecture is wonderful," Morrison says. "[The designers] wanted it to blend in with the surrounding houses, so it isn't a big, square building with a flat roof. They made it more like the surrounding neighborhood, with warm tones, very modern, very inviting."
The interior of the facility is equally appealing.
"We tried to get as much volume as we could in each space, which really helps to make it appear larger and more pleasant," McFadgen says. Enough indirect natural light reaches every public space in the building that, on a sunny day, it isn't even necessary to turn on the lights in some areas, a cost-saving plus for the city.
"Even in the locker rooms there is natural light," McFadgen points out, explaining that this feature combines well with the extensive use of wood accents to give the inside of the building a friendly, welcoming feel as well.
Another feature that tends to win people over is the no-fee admission, though of course there is a rental fee for those wishing to reserve the facility for private parties or other functions.
"Every day we get people who come in here who are hearing about the place for the first time," Morrison says. "And every time we tell them it costs nothing to use the facility…their eyes open wide, and they say that's wonderful."