Feature Article - May/June 2004
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Recreation Management’s Second Annual Innovative Architecture & Design Awards


Well, it's that time of year again. We are pleased to present the results of our second annual Innovative Architecture and Design competition. We had an impressive response to our 2004 competition, from a boathouse in Massachusetts to a recreation center at Transylvania University.

To begin with, a big thank you to all who entered—what a fantastic field of fascinating projects. You made the judging very challenging. There were so many impressive and distinctive projects submitted that all the entries helped lift the competition to an outstanding level.

With design innovation the title goal of the competition, we were searching for facilities, new or recently renovated, that are helping to set standards of excellence in the recreation community. Winners were chosen by our panel of judges, with the hopes of highlighting the best and most interesting projects the recreation industry has to offer, from aquatic centers and health clubs to arenas and community centers—and everything in between.

With many factors taken into consideration (interesting design, construction, programming, site, operational and budget factors, for example), we endeavored to have each facility judged on its own merits and scope, with our goal aimed at rewarding creative design ideas, such as overcoming common obstacles, tight funding or limited space, to name a few.

It's vital to mention that this was not a contest of budgets. We didn't want to necessarily compare a tiny municipal park against a zillion-dollar stadium complex. It was not a battle of David vs. Goliath, nor really a battle at all, for we wanted to ultimately recognize some Davids and some Goliaths—those facilities that strive to be the most ingenious, inventive and resourceful, whatever their size or cost.

The key word our panel constantly contemplated was "innovative." A winning facility may be tiny and tight or grand and huge, as long as its design is creative and serves the needs of its community, above and beyond.

Of course, a little of that "Wow" factor helps, too.

Each project was evaluated and scored under its own circumstances, given the picture the entrant painted for us. However, obviously, this was still a competition, and it was only natural that entries were ultimately compared to each other.

In addition to relevant design, construction, programming, site, operational and budget factors, entrants were also asked to answer the following questions representing the core of the competition criteria:

  • What is the facility's recreational value? How is this facility serving its community's needs?

  • What is the project value? (value vs. cost, in terms of the bang for the buck)

  • What's innovative about the project? In what ways is it unique and creative in its design?

  • How is its aesthetic presentation? Does it create visual excitement and comfort, inside and out?

  • What is the design concept for this project? How well does it meet its functional and operational expectations?

It is our hope that we have awarded facilities that will serve as excellent examples to our readers as well as generate good ideas and inspirations for other facilities.

So, without further ado, congratulations to our Winners.

You do our industry proud.


Here is a more comprehensive glimpse at the standards by which facilities were judged:


(serving patrons' needs, impact on community, fulfilling project's goals)


(creating visual excitement and comfort, good use of textures and colors, interesting focal points and features)


(curb appeal, site improvements, "fit" into the natural landscape)


(proportion and scale, clever use of space, smart layout, interesting features)


(attention to detail, harmony of materials, quality of construction)


(logical use of space, easy to manage and maintain, safe and efficient for staff and patrons, efficient uses of energy or natural resources)


(overall impression of how this project fits this award, based on the facility's originality, creativity, uniqueness and project value)


Congratulations to the following facilities:


Paradise Park Recreation and Community Services Center
Addison Athletic Club
Community Recreation Center at Reunion
Charles Whitlock Recreation Center
Crestwood Aquatic Center at Whitecliff Park
City of Livonia, Community Recreation Center
Keller ISD Natatorium
Activity and Recreation Center (ARC)
University of New Orleans Recreation and Fitness Center
Worthington Community Center
Allegan High School Aquatic Center
Freestone Recreation Center
Orland Park Sportsplex
Fitcorp at 600 Technology Square

We also are pleased to offer profiles of these additional
facilities that were submitted to us:

H I G H L I G H T   P R O F I L E S

Anderson Aquatic Center
Beachwood Family Aquatic Center
Bruner Fitness and Recreation Center at Illinois College
Buchanan Recreation Center
Eagle Pool and Ice Rink
Holden Municipal Pool Complex
Law Memorial Park
Lakeshore Athletic Club Flatiron
Pelican Bay Aquatic Center
Silver Cross Field
Student Recreation Center at the University of North Texas
Student Recreation Center at Valdosta State University


We sincerely appreciate our panel members
for sharing their time and expertise with us.

James E. Kemper

James E. Kemper has designed multiple award-wining fitness and recreation facilities from coast to coast with Phillips Swager Associates in Chicago during the past 14 years. He serves as one of six design principals and is the chairman of the Corporate Design Committee for the 200-person architectural, engineering and interiors firm. He has also lectured as an expert in the field of health and fitness design at Medical Fitness Association conventions.

Erik J. Kocher

Erik J. Kocher, AIA, has been involved in the design process of more than 75 projects across the United States, including wellness, fitness, recreation and varsity sports facilities. He has been with Hastings & Chivetta Architects, Inc. in St. Louis for 16 years and is a principal of the firm as a sports & recreation specialist. He is registered in 18 states including Georgia and is also a member of the Washington University Architectural School Advisory Council.

Christell Leonard

Christell Leonard is an associate principal and senior interior designer for one of the fitness industry's leading architectural firms, Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative (OLC). Since joining OLC in 1995, she has become an integral part of the interiors and architectural divisions of OLC and has helped design many different types of fitness facilities, including high-end private health clubs and spas, residential pool houses, swim clubs, professional sports facilities, and municipal recreation centers. Working in conjunction with the owners, project managers, project architects and general contractors, she is involved in the project through all phases of design experience.

Tom C. Poulos

As a principal and a project manager for Williams Architects, Tom C. Poulos, AIA, is a team leader of recreational and municipal projects. His areas of expertise include architectural programming, feasibility studies, space analysis, design, master planning and referendum assistance. NCARB registered and a licensed architect in numerous states, he also holds the title of secretary for Williams Architects and is responsible for developing and coordinating the firm's practice development and strategic plan.

Kenneth C. Ward

Kenneth C. Ward, P.E., is a principal and production manager for Water Technology, Inc. in Beaver Dam, Wis. His background consists of 15 years in the aquatic industry and five years conducting basic experimental fluid mechanics research and development for the U.S. Navy, Johns Hopkins University and Purdue University. His project experience includes world-class and Olympic competition facilities as well as YMCA and high school pools and leisure facilities ranging from waterparks to family aquatic centers (both indoor and outdoor). He has also served on design and standards boards for NSF, NSPI/ANSI, ASTM and National Center for Accessibility Access Committee.

Mark S. Wentzell

Mark Wentzell, a partner in Ankeny Kell Architects, P.A., is a leading designer of recreational facilities and has assisted numerous clients in the complex issues related to current fitness, recreational and wellness trends. A practicing architect for more than 25 years and the design principal at AKA, Mark leads AKA's Recreation Design Studio and guides a wide variety of clients through the planning and building process. In addition to his practice, Mark has been a faculty member of the University of Minnesota Department of Architecture since 1989 where he teaches architectural design.