Third Annual Innovative Architecture & Design Awards

Competing interest

If necessity is the mother of invention, then you could probably argue that competition is the father of innovation.

In the case of recreation facilities, the competition for patrons can be fierce, considering the multitude of entertainment options vying for everyone's precious leisure time these days. With so many diversion choices, it's no wonder that recreation facilities must continually reinvent themselves to serve an ever-sophisticated and harried public.

Which means health clubs, community centers, stadiums, parks, arenas and aquatic areas alike are all continually evolving to match this constant competition in the recreation marketplace. Facilities must be not only attractive and functional but downright striking and engaging—not to mention inviting, inspiring, charming and comfortable. Oh, and accessible, safe, easy to maintain and gentle on the budget.

This is where innovation steps in. Designers have tall orders to fill, charged with coming up with creative solutions to challenging situations, from tight budgets and spaces to complex amenities and customers.

With all this in mind, we are proud to present the results of our third annual Innovative Architecture and Design competition. With design innovation the title goal, 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.

Thank you to all who entered—what an fantastic field of fascinating projects. You made the judging very tough. There were so many impressive and distinctive projects submitted that all the entries helped lift the competition to an outstanding level.

While many factors were taken into consideration (design, construction, programming, site, operational and budget issues, for example), we strove to judge each facility on its own merits and scope, with our goal aimed at rewarding creative design ideas, such as overcoming common obstacles, meager funding or a difficult site.

Also note that this was not a contest of budgets. We simply want to recognize 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," hence again the title of this competition. A winning facility could be small and spartan or huge and grand, just as long as its design is creative and serves the needs of its community, above and beyond.

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 wish 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.

Kudos to the winners. You do our industry proud.

Profiles written by Elisa Kronish, Stacy St. Clair and Sutton Stokes


Here are more detailed descriptions of the standards by which all entries 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 and natural resources


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


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

Steve Blackburn

Steve Blackburn, AIA, is a principal and director of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture's national recreation design practice headquartered in Denver. Previously, he was a partner of The Sports Management Group and a project designer with HOK Sports Facilities Group. For the past two decades, he has focused his efforts in the programming and design of recreation and wellness facilities for more than 70 communities and 60 colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Rudy Fabiano

Italian-born Rudy Fabiano, AIA, has been president and design director of Fabiano Designs in Montclair, N.J., since 1989. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, a licensed professional architect in 20 states as well as a professional planner. His health-club design experience has spanned more than 250 projects in 38 states.

Andrew Lavallee

Andrew Lavallee, RLA, CSI, is a landscape architect and site planner with more than 15 years of experience in the planning and design of public, private and institutional landscapes. He is a senior associate with Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, PC in New York City and previously was an associate and director-of-design at Global Consult Group, Inc., a multi-disciplinary firm specializing in tennis court and track design. There he oversaw the planning, design and construction of sports facility projects throughout the United States as well as in Italy, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, Mexico and China.

Jim Maland

Jim Maland is an associate principal with Bonestroo, Rosene, Anderlik & Associates, Inc., a St. Paul-based engineering and architecture firm that provides professional services primarily to municipalities, counties and other public agencies. As head of the Bonestroo Sports Group, he has 25 years of engineering experience with special concentration on the planning and design of parks, aquatic centers and ice arenas, including more than 60 ice arena projects located in 19 states, from community based facilities to specialized outdoor facilities, as well as more than 30 aquatic projects communities, ranging from small community pools to multimillion dollar aquatic centers.

Patricia Rotondo

Patricia Rotondo, IIDA, AIA, is a senior vice president at VOA Associates Incorporated, a national planning, architecture and interior design firm headquartered in Chicago. Trained as both an interior designer and architect, she has a unique expertise in the planning, architecture and interior design of recreation, student housing and public assembly buildings. Currently she is actively engaged in the expansion and renovation of two recreation center buildings at the University of Illinois at Champaign and the new Fairmont State College Student Recreation Center and Student Union in Fairmont, W.V.

Brent Tippets

Brent Tippets, AIA, has 25 years of experience in the architectural profession and has been a partner with VCBO Architecture in Salt Lake City for the last seven years. He has received awards and recognition in the design of sports and recreation facilities, education facilities and visitor centers. He received architectural training form the University of Utah and has completed projects throughout most of the Western United States.


Big congrats to the following facilities:


Paul Derda Recreation Center

Grandview Community Center

Georgia Institute of Technology's
Campus Recreation Center

Kern Center at the Milwaukee School of Engineering

Westfield State College's Woodward Athletic Center

Morgan Hill Aquatics Center

Laramie Community Recreation Center

The Keller Pointe Recreation Center

Starpointe Residents Club
at Estrella Mountain Ranch

Fort Lupton Community Recreation Center

The Trails Recreation Center

West River Community Center

Sea Lion Aquatic Park

South Montgomery County YMCA at Branch Crossing

We also are pleased to offer profiles of the following facilities that were submitted to us to share and sponsored by the company that entered them.

H I G H L I G H T   P R O F I L E S

South Summit Aquatic and Fitness Center

Rock River Rapids Aquatic Park

Dolphins Cove at Prairie Athletic Club

Milford High School

The University of Alabama
Student Recreation Center

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