Award Winner - May 2009
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Riverside Recreation

The Northside Aztlan Community Center
Fort Collins, Colo.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Sink Combs Dethlefs in Denver

Size: 48,740 square feet

Project Cost: $8 million

Quick Tour:

  • Connections to Poudre River Trail
  • Basketball court
  • Skatepark
  • Playground
  • Outdoor handball courts


  • Triple gymnasium complex
  • Elevated running track
  • Locker rooms
  • Fitness & weight training areas
  • Multipurpose rooms
  • Kitchen
  • Classrooms
  • Intergenerational lounge
  • Spinning studio


ixty miles north of Denver, between the Rocky Mountains and the grasslands of eastern Colorado, a LEED Gold-certified recreation center sits on what used to be a city dump for Fort Collins. Situated near the Poudre River, the 13-acre former dump site was converted into a neighborhood park in the 1970s, and a 15,000-square-foot community center was added in 1978. But by 1997, the community center was starting to show signs of age, so city voters approved replacing the center through a capital sales tax extension program.

Building a new facility on the existing facility's site was tricky. The old landfill was to be disturbed as little as possible, and the river needed to be protected. In addition, the existing center was to remain open during construction, so users would see as little interruption to service as possible.

To eliminate the need to remove dredged-up landfill materials, the new building is raised 3 to 4 feet above the landfill, sitting on 300 helical piers in the bedrock. And looking at the new facility, no one could now guess that the river and its bank, the park site and the adjoining recreational trail were disrupted.

The center's design blends traditional materials and forms of Old Town Fort Collins with a contemporary interpretation of the nearby factory and mill architecture, using such materials as brick, precast concrete, steel and corrugated metal. The new facility tripled the size of the former facility, and includes a triple gymnasium, elevated track, locker rooms, fitness center, activity rooms, lounge, computer lab, kitchen, classrooms, multi-use room and support spaces.

But most importantly, the center proves that it is possible to successfully build an indoor facility over a landfill and that LEED certification comes to those who commit themselves to smart planning and good design. The facility will save 52 percent of outdoor water through native and adapted plant species and high-efficiency irrigation, while saving 44 percent of indoor water with efficient plumbing fixtures like dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets. A 31 percent energy savings comes from the building's efficient shell, HVAC and lighting systems. And importantly for this former landfill site, 95 percent of the waste generated during construction was diverted from landfills.

The three exterior gymnasium walls feature insulated concrete forms and exterior stucco, with west-facing windows angled to reduce afternoon glare and solar gain. Daylighting is liberally used, with 97 percent of the spaces in the building offering views to the outside.

With all of its green benefits—and the special attention paid to the site during construction—the fact that the project came in approximately $700,000 below the estimated cost of $8.7 million is an impressive accomplishment.


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

Striking details and visual interest; wonderful incorporation of factory and mill architecture into the design. Super example of creative re-use of a challenging site, and connectivity to outdoor recreation and river trail.

David Burch

Compressed plan with functional and clear flow.
Great cost control. Innovative use of building materials inside and out. The architecture reflects the project's innovation in sustainability. Appealing interior colors integrate well with the pre-engineered systems.
A surprisingly open and transparent space/plan that is in synch with the playful collage of program offerings.

Tom Poulos

Noteworthy commitment to sustainable design.

Colleen McKenna

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architect of Record:

Aller Lingle Massey Architects

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