Fitting the Community's Lifestyle
Shoreview Community Center: Tropics Waterpark and Fitness Center
Shoreview, Minn., is a fitness-minded community, and it's also quite organized. These two traits have blended to give the city a wildly successful and well-used gathering place that just keeps getting better.
Created in 1990, the Shoreview Community Center (adjacent to City Hall) soon came to serve as a surrogate "downtown" for this city of 27,000. Rather than high-rise office buildings and convention centers, Shoreview offered its residents a 70,000-square-foot facility with an indoor waterpark and swimming pool, meeting rooms for rent, and—of course—a fitness center.
But Shoreview residents' desire to get healthy eventually outgrew the space allotted for exercise equipment. Ten years later, with this drive toward getting in shape in mind (and confirmed by community surveys), the city government began to plot its next move—improvement and expansion.
"We had a feeling with the population aging and an increased interest in health and wellness that fitness [would be] driving the expansion, but ultimately we incorporated more than that," explains City Manager Terry Schwerm.
In addition to wanting more space to work out, the community had proved quite resourceful when it came to other uses for the community center.
"The original space was adequate in terms of size, but the center was overwhelmed by the variety and number of requests for rentals," explains Steve Erickson of BWBR Architects, a St. Paul, Minn., firm.
Some people were "looking for something more formal" than meeting rooms, he explains, and others wanted to have birthday parties at the waterpark without piling presents in a second-floor meeting room, then herding swimsuit-clad children back through the facility to the first-floor entertainment.
In 2000, the city of Shoreview and BWBR sat down again to plan.
"We've been involved with the city since we designed the original community center," Erickson says, and many of the city's players were also the same. Helped by this continuity, the resulting 90,000-square-foot enhanced and expanded project came off without a hitch.
Shoreview's forward-thinking organization had made the community center project part of the long-range Capital Improvement Program and allowed the project's budget—$4 million for building expansion and remodeling and $1.5 million for improvements to the grounds—to be financed largely through the Park Improvement Fund, monies annually set aside to provide recreation and services. The only question was where to begin.
"We took an idea that had been part of the organizing principle of the original building, which was to have recreation on the first floor and community space on the second floor, and enhanced it by taking functions that were crossing over and providing the necessary facilities on the first floor to bring it all back down there," Erickson explains.
BWBR remodeled the space just off the swimming pool/waterpark and created two party rooms, one communal and one private, which allow easy access to the water as well as the Wave Café. The myriad community groups that meet upstairs no longer have to worry that their discussions will be punctuated by shrieks of delight or a trail of wet footprints down the hall.
On the second level, rental options have been expanded with the addition of a second large banquet facility, this one trimmed with fine finishes and elegant lighting suitable for weddings or dinner parties. An expanded kitchen gives caterers plenty of room to work, and a more formally furnished lobby, complete with fireplace and displays for local artwork, gives cocktail gatherings an ideal backdrop. Now the center can host a Boy Scout dinner and a wedding reception all at once, Erickson says. But get your request in early. The rooms are often reserved months or more in advance.
"One thing that has continually impressed me about the city is how entrepreneurial they are," Erickson says. "They're always looking to provide updates that respond to the market, and they provide enhancements that are new and fresh every couple of years—an extended water slide, new toys in the pool."
The city requested a staging area for organizing the incoming busloads of school children who visit the center, so a more generous lobby space now invites visitors.
"We also tried—without making the people in the exercise rooms uncomfortable—to make them open and visible [from the lobby]," Erickson adds. "You get a sense of what's going on."
An undulating, water-themed wall begins at the building's exterior and continues inside, through the exercise room and childcare center, to the new and improved Wave Café.
"We used softer curves to gently bring people in and animate the space," Erickson explains.
But about that exercise area...The new two-story fitness center offers cardiovascular and weight-training equipment, plus group workout spaces, all drenched in natural light. Decorative tile and wooden lockers even make the changing rooms cheery. Memberships have doubled since the expanded space opened in 2003.
"This is where people can come and hang out," Schwerm says. "The youth athletic association and other nonprofit groups meet, and we have various activities and events on a weekly basis. A lot of seniors come to work out and then sit in the lobby to play cards. For the first time since we opened in 1990, fitness is the number-one reason people come, as opposed to the pool. The indoor waterpark is a unique feature in the area, but the fitness center is what serves the community."
Although Shoreview Commons' many amenities—including an outdoor picnic pavilion, warming shed for winter skating, band shell and expanded parking—mean there's not a ton of space left to expand, the architects still have a few tricks up their sleeves.
"Never say never," Erickson says. The fitness room has a reinforced ceiling, so it's ready to receive a hanging mezzanine when more floor space is needed. And, of course, Shoreview has a plan in place.
"[We've] identified future facilities and things to do," Schwerm says. "An outdoor water play area, enhanced outdoor skating—those will come when we can afford it."
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