Award Winner - May 2008
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A Creek Runs Through It

Tom Muehlenbeck Center
Plano, Texas

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Brinkley Sargent Architects in Dallas

Size: 79,411 square feet (Main Building), 11 acres (Site)

Project Cost: $24 million

Quick Tour:
Interior Recreation Components:

Competitive natatorium
Leisure natatorium, with wet classroom/birthday room
Multiple lounge spaces
Double gymnasium
Jogging/walking track
Group exercise room
Drop-in baby-sitting
Arts & crafts
3,200-square-foot dividable multipurpose space
1,436-square-foot weight area
5,809-square-foot fitness/cardio areas
1,283-square-foot game room

Site Components:

2,829-square-foot bathhouse/concession/pavilion
1 vehicular & 2 pedestrian bridges
15,300-square-foot outdoor pool deck area
1,590-square-foot playground

ommunity recreation is important in Plano, Texas. The Tom Muehlenbeck Center, opened in November 2008, is the city's third facility and was built to serve the west side of the city.

When it came to assessing the needs of the community, the city didn't program this facility simply based on what was missing from the other two. The city relied on the community it would serve. "Because we are fortunate to have other facilities in Plano, several public input meetings were held to find out what people wanted in that part of town," said Amy Fortenberry, recreation services manager for the Plano Parks Department.

The 79,411-square-foot, two-floor facility houses multiple lounge spaces, a double gym, a track, a fitness area, a weight room, a game room and multipurpose space, and offers significant space dedicated to water. "Water space is at a premium all the time here," Fortenberry said. She cited several groups clamoring for pool time, such as the preschool program, swim team practice and a very dedicated masters swim program, along with an active population of triathletes and fitness enthusiasts. "There's a huge demand for lap swimming," she said.

To address the needs of lap swimmers along with creating a family-oriented environment, the facility offers three pools. The indoor competitive pool is an eight-lane, 25-yard pool with two 1-meter diving boards. The indoor leisure pool is 6,305 square feet and features two lap lanes (creating space for the preschool program) along with a current channel, vortex, playdish and underwater seating. Of course, what's a leisure pool without a fantastic spiral of a waterslide? In a surprising twist, the platform for the waterslide offers users the option of going down a second slide, but that one drops into the lap pool. A slide into the serious swimmers' lap pool?

"When we don't have swim teams, we can open it up and offer the drop slide," Fortenberry said. "It makes a little extra play value in the lap pool. It's lots of fun and visually appealing."

The outdoor pool is 7,778 square feet with three waterslides, underwater benches, a spraypad and waterfall along with a shallow area for children. Fortenberry described it as "two pools that look like one." There's a separate outdoor entry to this pool, or it's accessible from inside the facility.

The building is surrounded by three schools, which may make it a perfect spot for kids and families, but the location was challenging from an architect's point of view. The 11.5-acre site features a creek, which bisects the property diagonally.

"Our natural inclination was to try to find a way to use it rather than cast it aside," said Stephen Springs, a partner with Brinkley Sargent Architects, the architect-of-record on the project. He noted that preserving the creek was also the sentiment of the neighborhood. The solution was to build bridges so visitors drive over the creek to arrive in the parking area and walk over pedestrian bridges to arrive at the building. The goal was to nestle the building within the natural environment as much as possible, a goal that was helped along by preserving trees onsite. "We were trying to keep the site as natural as we could," Springs said. Some of the finishes reflect this also, such as stone on the façade and warm brick tones to complement it. There's also stone inside along with other warmer materials, such as wood panels, which are also durable.

The light, open, airy building utilizes large glass windows on the east side, allowing the sun to stream in during the morning and providing a view of the creek. "It all really came together well," Springs said. "And the creek was a driving force there."

He also pointed out that this project was an excellent example of teamwork as multiple architects and engineers were involved. "The success of the facility's forms and function are really a testament to the process as much as anything," he said. "It was a very integrated process. Everyone was on board as early as the public meetings. Everybody influenced the job a great deal from beginning to end."


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

The Tom Muehlenbeck Center's sweeping exterior whisks in Plano residents to an exciting recreation experience.

Steve Blackburn

Innovative structure. Consistent quality inside and outside.

Nancy Freedman

Beautiful building. Great sense of both natural and artificial lighting.

Randy Mendioroz

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S


Brinkley Sargent Architects

Design Architect:

Moody-Nolan Inc.


Counsilman/Hunsaker & Associates

Landscape Architect:

Mesa Design Associates

Structural Engineer:

Stenstrom Schneider

Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer:

M-E Engineers Inc.

Civil Engineer:

Teague, Nall & Perkins

General Contractor:

Core Construction

Pool Contractor:

Sunbelt Pools

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