Award Winner - May/June 2004
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Charles Whitlock Recreation Center
Lakewood, Co.


S u b m i t t e d    b y:

sink combs dethlefs
in denver

41,500 total gross square feet

Project cost:
$7.9 million, funded by certificates of participation, grants and community donations

Quick tour:

  • Two full basketball/volleyball courts with maple floors
  • 5,000-square-feet multipurpose gym
  • Fitness discovery center, sports training room
  • 32-foot climbing wall
  • 600-square-foot warm-water fitness pool for classes
  • 3200-square-foot circuit and free-weight area
  • Aerobics/dance room
  • Locker and shower facilities
  • Cardio theater
  • Two racquetball/Wallyball courts
  • Men's and women's saunas
  • Outdoor inline skating rink

Residents of Lakewood, Colo., looking for a place to lounge should probably cross the new Charles Whitlock Recreation Center off their list of possible haunts.

"Unlike other rec centers, we don't have any classrooms," says George Fivgas, Lakewood's parks and recreation revenue programs analyst. "It's not a passive facility. It's only active."

The place was built for movement.

"This is not a facility about casual lounging—it's for fitness and activity," says Christopher Kastelic, project manager for Sink Combs Dethlefs architects in Denver. "The idea was not to design passive activity space but to offer as many fitness opportunities as we can fit within the budget and foster a social atmosphere in that way."

The Charles Whitlock Recreation Center replaced an existing recreation center dating back to 1972.

"It was Lakewood's first recreation center, and it was a converted tabernacle," Fivgas says of the old facility, which has been torn down. "Over the course of the years, we renovated it and we renovated it and we renovated it, but it still looked like a tabernacle, and it had outlived its usefulness."

In particular, the city needed a larger venue for its very popular adult indoor sports programs as well as a full fitness center. Interestingly, one attention-grabbing area of the new facility is aptly dubbed the fitness discovery center.

"We wanted to give people the chance to experience different types of fitness equipment that they wouldn't normally encounter," Fivgas says. The discovery center offers a revolving collection of alternative equipment, allowing the users the chance to try various workouts. It also encourages extreme-sports performance training, with a mix of martial arts, agility training equipment and even a small boxing ring.

"The layout goes beyond endless rows of bikes and treadmills," Kastelic says. "Patrons can try fitness programs and equipment that they might not find at another facility."

What's more, this whole unconventional mix can be taken outdoors, thanks to the glass garage doors at one end of the room, which are opened when the weather cooperates.

"We can do the whole Muscle Beach thing," Fivgas says. "It's really kind of fun." Plus, there's an indoor sculpted climbing area with an outdoor feel.

The Charles Whitlock Recreation Center is pocketed in an older neighborhood with established homes but faces Colfax Avenue, which is said to be the longest continuous commercial thoroughfare in the United States. Because of this eclectic neighborhood fusion, the center's design is a purposeful product of its assorted surroundings.

"The building is really a mixture of residential material and scale and this dynamic commercial look," Kastelic says.

Exterior materials were conscientiously chosen to blend with the character of the neighborhood, while making reference to the construction of the original center. The timber frames and soaring interior spaces had become the signature of the old rec center. Likewise, the new center uses parallam framing as the primary roof structure and opens up the interior in a similar fashion. Masonry, concrete, wood, glass curtain walls, stainless panels and standing seam roof forms all make up the outdoor facade.

Meanwhile, the interior is straightforward and hospitable. Concrete columns and wood roof framing are exposed all through the building. Stained concrete floors grace the circulation areas, while specialty sports flooring tackle the fitness spaces. Natural light is used liberally throughout.

Another motivational element to the building is the sports art gallery along one corridor, which showcases inspirational photos of celebrated instants in sports.

"They represent little glimpses of historic moments, like Babe Ruth and Nadia Comaneci," Fivgas says. "The interesting thing is the attention it gets from patrons. It takes them back."

It's yet another factor of the building that inspires activity.

"When we planned this facility, unlike some other recreation centers, we wanted this place to be predominantly directed toward families or individuals of all different ages," Fivgas says. "The purpose of Whitlock is fitness and skill enhancement. We don't do baby-sitting."

Children are encouraged to workout and play with their parents. There's even some toddler-size equipment.

"For us, in terms of health, it's great to get them active," Fivgas says. "If you look at it from a business perspective, those are tomorrow's clients."

J u d g e s '   N o t e s

"Fun, bold statements march through the entire facility. Bold statements with an agrarian twist work well."

james kemper

"Excellent use of forms, color, natural light and interior glazing for transparency. A seductive use of color and geometry. Excellent use of various building materials, which are well integrated and in true harmony with the physical surroundings. A truly visionary integration of exterior and interior compliment of various building materials to form an eclectic architectural expression of creativity. An exterior three-dimensional massing marvel."

Tom C. Poulos

A s s o c i a t e d    F i r m s

civil engineer

Muller Engineering Co., Inc.

Structural engineer

Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers

mechanical engineer

The Ballard Group, Inc.

electrical engineer

Innovative Electrical Systems

Landscape architect

Design Concepts

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