Award Winner - May/June 2005
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The Trails Recreation Center
Centennial, Colo.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:


80,000-square-foot, two-level fitness club

Project cost:
$18 million

Quick tour:

  • NBA basketball court
  • Two racquetball courts
  • Indoor four-lane, 25-meter lap pool
  • Indoor leisure pool with slides, family whirlpool, lazy river and play amenities
  • Group exercise studio
  • Community room
  • Two art rooms
  • Circuit equipment area
  • Climbing wall
  • Walk/run track
  • Free-weight area
  • Cardiovascular floor
  • Childwatch/art center
  • Locker rooms

When the Arapahoe Park District looked to the future, it did not forget the past. The district's new recreation center—a state-of-the-art facility located in Centennial, Colo.—pays tribute to the area's trailblazing history.

Located along the path that took pioneers into Denver, The Trails Recreation Center takes its visual inspiration from historic references. The building recalls the rooflines of the region's first prairie homes. It also uses details and materials reminiscent of early western settlements.

"We really tried to borrow historic cues from the area," says David Sprague, project designer with Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative in Denver.

"The subtle references to the past are meant to link the customers with a regional history that might otherwise go unnoticed."

The decision resulted in an engaging, educational theme that greets visitors the moment they walk in the door and are welcomed by a sunlit atrium structured with wooden trusses and planks. Local vegetation such as yucca plants and cacti have been placed throughout the facility, while indigenous art and tapestries hang on the walls.

Designers also selected lighting fixtures to hint of kerosene lamps. It's most clever incorporation of the area's history, however, is the group-exercise rooms where the floors resemble Native American rugs.

"It's something we tailored to this community," Sprague says. "It truly recalls the pioneer experience and spirit."

While the building evokes Colorado's past, its recreation programming is thoroughly modern. State-of-the-industry recreation and aquatic components include an indoor aquatic park with dual body and flume slides, a lazy river, and a generous zero-depth-entry pool for kids of all ages. A 30-foot climbing wall serves as a breathtaking centerpiece on the facility's main level and is showcased at night from a major roadway.

As patrons pass the control desk, an overlook places them above a 9,000-square-foot fitness floor, which offers a view to the site's park-like setting through expansive north-facing glass.

"We have a large fitness area," says Julie Ester, facility director. "You don't see that in community recreation facilities in and around Denver."

Other major components include a separate entry for the Childwatch/Art Center, three group-exercise rooms, lap pool, party room, full-size gymnasium and a track with vistas to all recreation amenities.

The facility meets a previously unfulfilled 10.5-mile service area for public recreation within an upscale suburban environment. User groups such as swimmers, basketball leagues, and even arts-and-crafts enthusiasts have embraced the facility.

Project planners, however, took great pains to ensure the center offered an adult recreational experience. They specifically designed the building so adult patrons would not feel overrun by the children who share the facility. The men's and women's locker rooms, for example, have been divided into wet and dry areas to help separate differing age and user groups.

The community's approval has been seen in the large number of visits and positive responses since the facility opened in November 2004.

"The response has been unbelievable," Ester says.

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Use of traditional elements helps break up the massing of the façade into more easily understood parts. Colors, textures and patterning work well together."

andrew lavallee

"Graphics at the floor of the aerobics room are stunning."

brent tippets

"Great attention to detail. Warm, inviting and welcoming facility. Uncommon on this type of public facilities."

patricia rotondo

"Excellent job tying spaces together with running/walking track. Great climbing wall."

jim maland

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

operations consultant

Ballard*King Associates

Landscape architect

Rockne-Corty Design

Structural engineer

Redwine-Reizian Engineers

electrical engineer


mechanical engineer

The Ballard Group

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