Award Winner - May 2008
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Trailblazing Recreation

Carmel Clay Central Park
Carmel, Indiana

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Williams Architects Ltd. in Carol Stream, Ill.

Size: 146,255 square feet

Project Cost: $44.5 million

Quick Tour:

Indoor natatorium, including leisure depth pool and six-lane non-competition lap pool
Three-court gymnasium
Health/fitness areas
Indoor children's play zone
Lobby space and administrative offices
Program rooms
Banquet room with catering kitchen
3.5-acre outdoor aquatic center
161-acre park with trails and other amenities

isitors to Carmel Clay Central Park no longer only have miles and miles of dense forest surrounding them while traveling the historic Monon Trail. Instead, this Central Indiana park features the all-purpose Monon Center, a recreation facility that allows for a break during trailblazing action.

The new center, opened in spring 2007 in Carmel, Ind., features two separate buildings that are connected by an overhead, enclosed walkway. The walkway spans the width of the trail, which divides the center in half. The Monon Trail is part of the historic Monon railroad, converted for the usage of residents who frequently jog or bicycle through the thick, forested park. The new center is positioned in such a way that users of the trail can stop mid-travel and utilize the facility as an oasis.

According to Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Director Mark Westermeier, the east side of the center features a computer lab, arts-and-crafts room, banquets and a historical society/nature program room. The west side of the structure features a three-court gymnasium, an indoor natatorium that contains leisure and competition pools, health and fitness rooms, and an indoor children's play zone.

"We like to think of the west end of the building as the active side and the east end as the passive side," Westermeier said. "The east end can be used for programs and wedding receptions, while the west end has dance studios and a lagoon for fishing and kayaking."

Located behind the west end of the center is an outdoor aquatics center. The waterpark features a zero- edge depth activity pool, four-lane non-competition lap pool, lazy river, kiddie pool, two waterslides and a deep pool with a 1-meter diving board.

Building the center with all aspects of recreation in mind was critical for achieving the park's goal to find a way to provide accessibility to the area's entire population demographic. Also in mind was creating a center that fit into the lay of the land, given that the site was part of a thick forest that included wetlands, meadows and a lagoon. A year-long series of public forums were held to gain input from stakeholders in the project. Interviewees included community groups, residents and schoolchildren in order to design a center that was based on the needs and expectations of the community.

"We tried to build something that met the needs of residents from a toddler all the way up to senior citizen," Westermeier said. "We were careful to try to avoid duplicating something that was already available to the public like tennis and racquetball courts, which that community already has at a nearby facility."

The goal of Williams Architects was to design a building that integrated with the terrain. The center features wide open interior spaces with views to the surrounding landscape and the usage of transparent and opaque building materials. The inside of the waterpark is filled with vegetation, and the pools and waterslides are built into the sides of hills, eliminating the need to use large quantities of concrete and ladders to get to the slides.

The facility has many sustainability features that Tom Poulos, principal at Williams Architects, believes could qualify the center for LEED certification. However, Poulos said that the client never pushed for certification for the new facility at the time of construction. Only now are they pushing for certification of the existing facility, which requires a two-year waiting period. Poulos believes that the center will achieve Silver certification with its artificial lighting systems, bamboo finishing and low-VOC-emission paint and flooring products and water retention system.

"Attaining LEED points was a focus when designing the project," Poulos said. "We did everything we could to cover all aspects that would lead to sustainability."

One outstanding sustainability feature that Monon boasts is the water retention, purification and recycling system. The facility uses a roof structure watershed, bioswales and discharge pools of water through a greywater holding pond that dissipates impurities. The intent is to avoid taxing the city's sanitary system.

"The system captures water runoff from the roof and runoff from parking lots through the bioswales that is fed into drainage pools," Poulos said. "Then the water from the drainage pools is captured in a greywater detention basin until chemicals in the water dissipate impurities and then is released back into the lagoons."


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

Straddling the existing Monon Trail, the center's design effectively separates the civic and arts areas, and the fee-based recreation spaces.

Janet Jordan

Wow. An extraordinary central park development for residents of Carmel.

Steve Blackburn

Innovative integration of building and site.

Nancy Freedman

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Aquatic Designer/Engineer: Williams Architects

Landscape Architect: JJR

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