Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Aurora Sports Park
Aurora, Colo.

Simply put, the City of Aurora, Colo., needed more room to play.

With a population of 280,000, the swelling suburb of Denver had a tough time scheduling time and space for all its many outdoor sports leagues and activities, especially soccer, softball and baseball.

So recreational growing pains spurred the creation of a 212-acre sports park, designed with the hopes of becoming a top destination for national and state tournaments as well as home to numerous sports and activities for both kids and adults.


"We needed to take pressure off of neighborhood parks," says Project Manager Tom Barrett. "It truly is a regional park. We thought it was far enough away from neighborhoods yet accessible. It also has something for everyone."

The sports park does double duty, fulfilling both active-use and passive-use recreational roles, from a wide array of sports to picnics, trails and cycling.

The project was funded through a "No New Tax" Bond Issue, and the citizens of Aurora benefit economically from revenue and taxes generated by events at the park, with the tournaments attracted to the park expected to generate $4 million per year in sales revenue for area businesses.

One of the main goals of the park's design was to preserve existing trees while minimizing the disruption of wildlife. For example, an existing shady Cottonwood grove was spared that runs through the central passive recreation area, also doubling as a large drainage corridor.

"We were very ecologically sensitive in dealing with the site the best way we could," Barrett says. In fact, the property was formerly an automobile salvage yard with scrap materials scattered everywhere. Major cleanup was in order, but planners were also intent on putting that trash to better use.

"We very deliberately and very carefully conserved these items," Barrett says. The scrap metal was sold off, and about 5,000 tires were recycled. Some old concrete was even reused onsite.


Design-wise, the "festival" park architecture and elements (including climbable public art installations) are meant to highlight the playfulness and celebration of sport. Grading and earthworks have been designed to allow for stadium-style spectator viewing. Roads and parking were integrated to lessen both their visual and environmental impacts, while improving direct access to the playing fields.

Other goals of flexibility and maintenance were also addressed with the design. For example, the soccer (multipurpose) turf pads were laid out in three groups of six fields and one group of four fields, which can be rotated 90 degrees each season to limit turf damage to fields. To avoid conflicts during tournaments, the softball/baseball complexes are linked with a service road and an interconnecting series of gates to allow full access of service vehicles, while not crossing main pedestrian patterns.

From a groundskeeping point of view, the athletic turf was specifically designed using a prescription root-zone system allowing high-intensity usage.

Constructed for tertiary reuse (gray) water, the irrigation system was designed with isolated zones created to assist turf recuperation and regrowth for the most-worn areas.

"One of the great things about this site is that it's irrigated with recycled water," Barrett says. Colorado, like many western states is in a drought. To have irrigated playing fields is a sheer luxury.

"This creates another wow effect," he says. "Not only are people amazed at the size and volume of the activities but the great quality turf as well."

"The artwork is great."

—Reed I. Voorhees

"Exemplifies environmental ethic.
Unique signage and color elements."

—Philip Neeley


Submitted by: Wenk Associates in Denver (park designers)

Size: 212 acres

Project cost: $20.5 million ($18.5 million for design and construction plus $2 million for site acquisition)

Quick tour:

  • 23 collegiate-sized soccer fields (which double as numerous multipurpose play fields) accommodate more than 3,000 youth soccer players every Saturday in the spring and fall.
  • 14 softball/baseball fields (12 completed so far) accommodate 1,000 softball players each weeknight from late February to early November. One championship youth baseball field in the works
  • Five activity clusters organized around five restroom/concession buildings (three softball/baseball complexes and two soccer/multipurpose)
  • Onsite maintenance facility
  • 5.5-acre reuse water irrigation pond
  • The site incorporates a one-mile stretch of the Sand Creek Regional Greenway for walking, running, horseback riding and cycling.
  • 2,000 trees planted, including 400 native trees
  • 2,200 parking spaces. The largest parking lot is no more than four parking stalls wide, reducing stormwater runoff concentration.
  • 80 acres (38 percent) of the site is nonirrigated native seed.

Associated Firms

Architects: Brendle APV

Drainage and utility engineers: ICON Engineering

Road and parking engineers: S.A. Miro

Irrigation consultants: Hydrosystems

Structural engineers: Martin/Martin

Traffic engineers: HNTB

Site electrical and building mechanical and electrical engineering: Swanson Rink

Turfgrass consultants: PRZ Consulting

Geotechnical engineers: Ground Engineering

General contractor: Valley Crest Colorado

Buildings contractor: Mountain States Construction

Earthworks: Tarco

Sports turf seeding: RMT

Fencing: Steellock Fence

Sports lighting: Sturgeon Electric and Musco Sports Lighting

Scoreboards: Colorado Time Systems

Signage: Sachs Lawlor

Public art: Ballglove by Rik Sargent, Ball Caddy by Don Mitchell, Trophy by Rafe Ropek

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