Award Winner - May/June 2004
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Orland Park Sportsplex
Orland Park, Ill.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:

yarger sports architecture in chesterfield, mo.

88,000 square feet

Project cost:
$12 million

Quick tour:

  • 21,600-square-foot indoor soccer center
  • Three-court gymnasium
  • 2,925-square-foot gymnastics room
  • 1/6-mile track
  • 35-foot climbing wall
  • 8,800-square-foot fitness center
  • Aerobics and dance areas
  • 1,600-square-foot free-weight area
  • Administrative offices
  • Baby-sitting area
  • Concessions
  • Locker rooms
  • Support facilities

Sometimes feeding the public's demand for extra recreation space only fuels it all the more. You could probably make this argument for the new 88,000-square-foot Orland Park Sportsplex in suburban Orland Park, Ill.

"It's been received extremely well—if the village board could've built it bigger, they would have," says Gary Major, director of recreation and parks. "Our uses have readily exceeded what our projections were. It's given us the opportunity to host some special events and add new activities."

Luckily, an indoor aquatic addition is already in the works. In the meantime, about 7,500 people per week use the facility, from fitness center members, soccer players and gymnasts to program participants and seniors using the track.

"It really gave us a foundation for our indoor sports program," Major says. "The function of the building came first, and the style was built around that, but it's not an expensive style. It has lots of windows and various materials. There's a lot of openness and light, so you can feel the energy in the building." That energy starts with an inviting exterior.

"We used concrete masonry on the outside to keep our costs down—it's a big, big building," says William F. Yarger, principal in charge with Yarger Sports Architecture in Chesterfield, Mo. For further cost-effectiveness, the exterior is also composed of fixed glass windows, glass curtain walls and clearstory windows. "We also wanted to make it a dynamic statement to make people come off the road to see it," he says. Durability was also key to choosing materials.

"The building is wearing extremely well—it's maintaining its luster," Major says. "But the important thing is the building works." And in some cases, it's working even better than planners had hoped. While the indoor soccer area was a fundamental element to the building, designed to handle the village's burgeoning soccer programs, it's also produced some fringe benefits, like a spot for batting practice, golf lessons and even a senior's bocce tournament.

"It's getting a lot more play," Yarger says. Another pleasant reward has been the bonus appeal of the 35-foot climbing wall.

"It's kind of a sculpture in the middle of the building," Yarger says. "What has happened, the climbing wall has become very popular, especially with young girls. It's very popular after school. It's been a surprise that it's been as successful as it is."

Like most elements of the building, the climbing pinnacle is impossible to miss once you come through the doors.

"You don't have to ask where anything is—you can see all of the major activity spaces when you walk into the lobby," Yarger says. "It's a self-guided tour within a small number of square feet. It sells itself. What we did is make the whole building an activity center." Of course, the openness plugs into the excitement of the building as well as allows staff to effectively monitor the goings-on.

"What I'm pleased about is that the center core is surrounded by a lot of activities," Yarger says. "When you walk in, all you hear is the hum of people using it. And it's a happy hum."

Part of this hum results from a simple concept.

"One of the things that helped out was the efficiency of design," Major says. "It gave us the resources for a larger building but in a more economical box."

Planners forecasted how guests realistically would use and move about the building. As a result, an unusually small percentage of the floor plan is actually hallways, so that the village could afford to add other program areas.

"Instead of building corridors, we were building activity spaces, which was really important," Yarger says. "So you are not paying for a lot of walls and corridors. The activity spaces are inner-connected."

The design concept involved the organization of the three large, two-story activity spaces (gym, indoor soccer and future indoor pool) and the integration of the one-story smaller activity functions. The design uses one curved roof truss profile shape for the roof structure in all three large areas, while the center of the building is a 2.5-story vaulted roof that covers the fitness area and climbing wall rising from the first floor to the vault trusses. The future indoor pool is oriented to the south for winter sun and was pre-designed to match the other vaulted roof trusses.

Hitchcock Design Group, landscape architects and planners in Naperville, Ill., tackled the tough job of master planning the complicated site, which encompassed wetlands and a major highway entry. The unique site plan organized the building and parking on a diagonal layout that maximized parking at the entry and accommodated the 45-degree, off-axis, entry and drop-off area. Likewise, associate architects Linden Group in Chicago was critical in the construction administration process of the project.

"The construction of this large building was very challenging with a number of players," Yarger says. "Linden Group proved the theory that architecture is a team sport."

As Major said before, the building works—and is reaping revenue.

"A good-looking building that doesn't work is missing a great opportunity," Yarger says. "We make sure we try to solve the business-plan issues first before we solve the architectural issues. We're proud of the design, but we're even more proud if a project is financially successful."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Great building lines leading you to the focal point at the entrance with a strong visual impact with the glass structure and sweeping roof."

kenneth ward

"A purposeful community investment. A potential to change lives and shape the community for the future. "

tom poulos

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

ASSoC. architecture firm

Linden Group

landscape architect

Hitchcock Design Group

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