Award Winner - May/June 2006
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Back at the Ranch

Recreation Center at Southridge
Highlands Ranch, Colo.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y:

Sink Combs Dethlefs in Denver

Size: 71,880 square feet

Project cost: $13.2 million

Quick tour:

  • 11,000-square-foot two-court gymnasium
  • Indoor and outdoor pools
  • 3,000-square-foot arts and crafts area
  • 1,800 square-foot aerobics studio
  • 4,500-square-foot running track
  • 6,000 square-foot fitness area (cardio, free weights, circuit training)
  • Community spaces along with senior lounge and Wildcat Auditorium
  • Outdoor tennis courts

When officials in Highlands Ranch, Colo., decided to build their most recent recreation center, they wanted to do it right.

"This is our fourth facility, and our last large-scale facility, so we wanted it to be the crown jewel," says Peggy Zack, assistant manager for the Highlands Ranch Community Association.

To accomplish this goal, Highlands Ranch tapped Sink Combs Dethlefs, a Denver-based firm that already had worked on several projects in the community. Officials asked them to build a recreation center that would surpass the other existing centers in the area.

"The bar was set very high right from the start," architect Andrew Barnard says.

In the end, Highlands Ranch found itself home to an inviting facility that has become a local showpiece. With a balanced blend of materials, building forms and natural light, the nearly 72,000-square-foot structural steel and masonry building embodies the community's original vision. The design includes a dynamic lobby with a stone tile and glass wall stretching more than two stories to a wood roof, where natural light pours in to foster a warm, inviting atmosphere. The feature serves as the building's orientation point, allowing people to know where they are by using the wall as a guide. The wall was the main attraction when the facility opened in October 2005. Guests—especially children—walked around the feature with their mouths opened and their eyes as large as saucers.

"It's very exciting when people walk in the front door and have such a positive reaction," Zack says. "People come in and just say 'wow.' "

Once inside, there are plenty of recreation options to behold.

"It's a very warm, friendly building," Barnard says. "It's very open and has a civic, community-minded feel."

Before the design process began, the association surveyed residents for their opinions. The responses indicated children had sufficient recreation opportunities, but the community lacked senior services and cultural venues.

The final product addressed both areas. In addition to a leisure pool, the indoor natatorium has an exercise pool specifically targeted for senior programming and therapeutic needs. It also has a community room, complete with a stage and support spaces, to accommodate a local surge in cultural programming.

"Because of the great communication with residents, we knew what they wanted," Zack says. "People are just so excited about the recreation center. We've had just a terrific response."


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

The use of stone and natural wood in the soaring great hall results in a wonderful atmosphere. Functional layout and attention to ideas of solar heat gain (and how to minimize its impact) are proof of a well-thought-out project.

Greg Garlock

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Landscape architect:

Design Concepts

Structural engineer:


Electrical engineer:

Innovative Electrical

Mechanical engineer:

Ballard Group

Civil engineer:

Muller Engineering Co., Inc


Pinkard Construction Co.

Pool consultant:

Water Technology, Inc.

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