That's the Spirit
Renaud Spirit Center
While most recreation facilities are honored for what they have, the Renaud Spirit Center in O'Fallon, Mo., should be hailed for what it doesn't: a big budget.
The building is a testament to designing a quality facility with tight funding-without sacrificing amenities or programming.
As one of the fastest growing communities in the St. Louis area, O'Fallon developed an ambitious master plan to create indoor and outdoor recreation opportunities for its residents. A portion of a $17 million bond was earmarked for the construction of a new indoor community recreation center.
Residents had limited access to adjacent community rec centers but wanted all the features found at those facilities, which were larger and more expensive than the city's funding would allow. They expected their center to offer basketball courts, an elevated walking track, an indoor aquatic center and a large fitness center, among other amenities.
It seemed a tall order for an $8.9 million facility. The design would have to find a delicate balance between quality and budget, while emphasizing program flexibility and future expansion capability.
"That was the greatest challenge," says architect Michael Pratl of Jacobs Facilities Inc. in St. Louis. "It wasn't necessarily about using the best finishes. It was about giving them the biggest bang for their buck."
The solution was to integrate simple structural systems, modular walls and window panels, as well as economical interior materials into an open floor plan. Pratl added natural products such as brick and ceramic tile in primary public spaces to give the facility a warm and welcoming aspect without diverting too much money from programming requirements.
The floor plan is a curved cruciform allowing expansion of the facility in all four directions: high-bay areas like the gymnasium and natatorium in the north and south and community and fitness spaces along the east and west exposures.
The high-bay design is similar to a warehouse or loft, allowing smaller rooms to be contained within the larger volume. The fitness center, which is stacked on top of the locker rooms and support spaces in the middle of the high-bay building, separates the gymnasium from the natatorium. The curved roof continues unobstructed over the entire building and gives the impression of a much larger space.
The high-bay building is light, open and skeletal in appearance. Its exposed steel frame, metal panels and glass house the larger programmatic volumes. High, transparent vertical glazing allows the repetitive lacey nature of the steel roof structure to connect the curved roof plane to the skin of the walls, further emphasizing the dynamic nature of sports.
In addition, the larger volumes are oriented to maximize natural daylight into all the primary spaces (north daylight for the gymnasium and south daylight for the natatorium). Large expanses of glass allow the curved masonry walls to freely glide through the entire facility, blurring the concept of inside and outside to further enhance the overall experience and connection to the landscape.
The building clearly shows that communities needn't break the bank to create a dynamic, engaging wellness center. Recreation managers from all over the country have toured the facility, and many have found inspiration in its cost-effective design.
"Even though it's design on a budget," Pratl says, "it still offers programming that other facilities don't have."
Even more important than national respect is local approval. O'Fallon residents have raved about the facility since its opening and have demonstrated their support with strong membership numbers.
"It has been a very, very steady growth," says Craig Feldt, facility director. "It's a strong growth that shown no signs of a plateau."