Award Winner - May/June 2004
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Activity and Recreation Center (ARC)
Columbia, Mo.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:

jacobs facilities inc. in st. louis

75,600-square-foot complex

Project cost:
$11 million

Quick tour:

  • 12,800-square-foot indoor aquatics complex, featuring an activity pool with a triple-loop slide, current channel, vortex area, three-lane lap pool, adult-only spa and central play pool with a zero-depth area
  • 12,500-square-foot gymnasium
  • 6.5-lap-per-mile walking/running track that runs the perimeter of the indoor aquatic complex
  • 8,600-square-foot fitness center with separate youth training room and rooftop exercise deck
  • 1,800-square-foot group exercise/aerobics room
  • Two party rooms accessible to pool deck
  • 3,000-square-foot multipurpose room
  • 600-square-foot classroom
  • 1,250-square-foot game room
  • 1,035-square-foot child-care room
  • Concession room with wet- and dry-side dining areas

No doubt about it, indoor recreation space was tight in Columbia, Mo. "From the city of Columbia's perspective, we had for years an outstanding park system, but we had always been short on indoor public recreation space," says Park Director Mike Hood. "Park staff had their eyes on this for years."

One of those main amenities the park staff had been eying was an indoor pool.

"We looked at aquatics being the driver for this facility," Hood says of the city's first-ever community recreation center. "But we weren't looking for a competition pool. We were looking for a family aquatic center."

That parameter set, the Activity and Recreation Center's other elements had to be determined based on its funding, which was generated from a raise on sales tax in the city.

"The project had a fixed budget, but we determined what the city needed was more than they could afford—as an example, there was a tremendous need for gym space," says Reed I. Voorhees, design principal with Jacobs Facilities Inc. in St. Louis. "We started with the aquatic element as the focal point and designed the building to accommodate fairly sizeable alternates and future expansion."

An extra multipurpose room, youth fitness area, meeting room and an extension to the track were all added during the design process thanks to some private fund-raising. Still, the aquatic section remained prominent.

"The building is laid out that way—it's the focus," Voorhees says of the 13,000-square-foot indoor aquatics complex. "As the design developed, other features became significant. The track is a good example of that. We designed an extension of the walking/jogging track through the natatorium as an alternate, and it's become a signature feature of the building."

The 6.5-lap per mile track runs around the entire upper level of the facility through the gymnasium, over the lobby, around the fitness area and then around the perimeter of the natatorium through a glass-enclosed tube.

"What really has grabbed people's attention is the walking area," Hood says of the well-used track. "It has proved very popular."

Also proving popular is the gymnasium with maple flooring.

"We certainly knew we had a need for gym space," Hood says. Columbia's other indoor spaces already had schedules jam-packed with programming. "We were hoping to create a more drop-in type facility for open play. We've built two full courts, and they're packed."

As for other ARC amenities, an outdoor fitness area on the upper level allows staff to hold fitness class outdoors in good weather. A youth training room was designed specifically for weight training for the younger population, while the multipurpose room was equipped with power and data floor boxes for computer classes.

The ARC also embraces many cutting-edge environmental and energy-control systems. The mechanical systems were designed to provide a healthy and comfortable environment while also being energy efficient. The office and public spaces are served by variable volume air systems that use significantly less energy at part load conditions. For example, when the building only requires 50 percent of the design airflow, then the energy used and associated costs are cut 88 percent. Because the building is at part load the majority of the time, the city will see a savings almost every day.

Also, a state-of-the-art environmental control system installed in the natatorium takes the heat removed from the air in the aquatic center and uses it to heat the pool water. Since most of the heat lost from a pool is due to evaporation into the space, when the pool air-handling system wrings that heat out of the air stream, it puts almost all of the energy back into the water from which it came. That means the boiler doesn't have to be used as often, and in turn, less energy is used through the year.

Its impressive efficiency aside, the ARC has become a recreational haven for Columbia residents.

"It really fills a need," Hood says. "It's been very well received by the community and heavily used. It's exceeded all our expectations."

Usage numbers are expected to top 250,000 visits this year, proving Columbia was really able to provide its residents with a facility custom-designed for them.

"The fact that we used a citizen's committee to assist us really built a good base of public support," Hood says. "That was key."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"The elevated track through the natatorium provides a unique combination of recreational activities."


"Entrance is especially exciting."


"The track is impressive. I typically hate running inside, but I would like to run on this track."


A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s


Counsilman/Hunsaker & Associates


Peckham & Wright Architects
Western Technologies


Trabue, Hansen Hinshaw, Inc.


Ballard*King & Associates

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