Paul Derda Recreation Center
When Melanie Richmond began her job in 2001 as Capital Improvements Program manager for the City and County of Broomfield, Colo., she inherited about $21.5 million to build a new recreation center.
Great news, right? Yes and no. The catch was that, according to stipulations in the funding, the money had to be spent by fall 2003.
"It probably should have been a 24-month job, but it was an 18-month job," Richmond says. Of course, that didn't stop Richmond or anyone else involved with the project from creating a striking 84,870-square-foot facility, on time and under budget.
How'd they manage that? As Richmond will admit, she was quite a taskmaster. Plus, she handled some of the subcontracting herself.
"I was working behind the scenes kind of as our own general contractor for the interior, while the contractor himself was focusing on the core of the building," she explains. Team members also had done their homework, visiting existing facilities, asking questions, honing in on what they wanted and keeping that vision in mind.
"No one lost sight of the goal," Richmond says.
That goal also focused on families.
"We wanted to make something that was a family environment," says Bob Prince, director of recreation services for the City and County of Broomfield. They wanted the facility to help establish Broomfield as the growing city it is, rather than the bedroom community between Denver and Boulder it used to be.
"Our community had pretty high expectations," Prince says.
And often great hopes lead to great outcomes.
"They knew if they didn't do something that could keep up with the Joneses, people would go somewhere else," says Craig Bouck, principal with Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture in Denver, which was hired for the project.
One evident decision was to thoughtfully balance cost-per-square-foot throughout the building, rather than spend more in the lobby than other areas.
"What it does is gives it more of a private club atmosphere," Prince says.
From flooring to artwork, every aspect of the facility suggests something about Broomfield. The sweeping lines of the crescent-shaped entry parallel the area's rolling hills, while inlaid animal prints of native wildlife grace the floor of the child-care rooms. Beige and brown bricks with white accents complement other new civic structures nearby. One wall features carved stone art panels that depict Broomfield's past and present. And a series of colorful, oversize banners show off photographs taken by a Broomfield resident. Not ignoring the actual outdoors, large west-facing windows frame mountain views.
One thing planners had to take into account was nearby residents who certainly didn't want their own scenic vistas obscured. Striving to be a friendly neighbor, they tucked the facility into the landscape.
"It's a two-story building, but it steps down away from the houses, so it appears as a one-story building," Bouck says. This practical solution means that visitors enter on the upper level and look down into activity spaces below, making an impressive first impression.
Two components drove the overall budget and design: the pool and gymnastics center.
"It's not the biggest pool in the area, but it sure has the most appeal," Bouck says. What it has amounts to nearly a quarter of the entire square footage of the center. It includes an activities pool, dual water slides that wind their way through rock formations and waterfalls, and three lanes of lap swimming. A 15-person family spa and six-person whirlpool give adults a luxury spot all their own. In warm weather, a 3,600-square-foot sun deck and spray area are accessible through three movable glass walls.
"The walls fold up and out of the way, directly connecting the indoor and outdoor areas," Bouck says.
The previous gymnastics program had about 200 kids and had been an everyday set-up and take-down operation for 28 years in the 30-year-old community center. The program now attracts 800 kids a month who take advantage of a fully equipped dedicated space.
"It's over the top and a tremendous asset to the community," Bouck says.
Another popular area is the game room, purposefully not geared toward any age group.
"By not calling it a teen center, all kinds of people are in there," Bouck says. It's basically an open space with an electronic jukebox, video games, pool tables and other activities, all of which are totally free.
"It's the cheapest space in the building and one of the most successful," says Bouck, who often pops in with his own children.
For young kids, the indoor playground is a winner as well.
"They recognized that often major caregivers for children are grandparents, and they need a place to go," Bouck says.
The facility's open plan, inclusiveness and mostly unprogrammed areas have received rave reviews and become a central gathering spot for the community as well.
"It's a social place where people go and just enjoy each other's company," Bouck says.