When the city of Harrisonville, Mo., and its Parks and Recreation Board set out to create a new community center, they aimed for no less than a tangible icon for this growing Kansas City suburb. The site on the outskirts of town that was selected couldn't have suited their goal better—it sits on top of a hill, amid a wide expanse of land with views in all directions. And, sure enough, this 68,000-square-foot facility has become both a focal point and a source of pride for the city.
"It's the nicest building in town—you can't miss it," said Chris Cotten, facility director.
Drawing from the surrounding environment, Kansas City-based Warner Nease Bost Architects chose to incorporate a Prairie Style look.
"Deep overhangs, the use of several building materials and reduction of building masses makes the building inviting to patrons," said principal architect Dennis A. Nease. "Exterior building materials and color selections harmonize with the surrounding landscape."
The warm exterior palette continues inside, giving the building a strong sense of cohesiveness, and artwork by local artists is updated regularly.
The jewel of the building is its lobby, with its large expanses of glass and clerestory windows, a brick colonnade and hub-and-spoke reception area.
"Almost all activities are organized around the main lobby and reception areas," Nease explained.
The open plan creates a sense of anticipation when entering the center and gives the staff excellent views all around, so design can shine, but security isn't compromised. A feeling of elegance was achieved with moderately priced, durable materials.
As for its success beyond aesthetics? The proof is in the numbers.
Harrisonville has a modest 9,500 residents, but by drawing from all around Cass County, the community center easily attracted 2,000 members, some of whom drive up to 40 miles to get here.
"I was told that it would take a community of 50,000 to make a community center like this break even," Cotten said.
Fitness spaces include cardiovascular circuits, strength training, aerobics, an elevated running track, a full gym with basketball and volleyball courts and a six-lane pool. For families, the zero-depth-entry recreation pool is a hit, and the party pit is perfect for pool parties year-round. Teens can hang out in a room with games and TVs, and a Child Watch program offers a secure location for younger children.
"Dad can play in an adult dodgeball league, while mom is taking Spinning class, while junior is in the pool," Cotten said.
"It's a big deal," said Cotten, who's in the "super-competitive" league himself. The community center has even landed a stop on the National Dodgeball League Championship Tour.
Seniors have their own room too, with a dedicated serving kitchen and outdoor patio. Plus, there are multipurpose rooms that can be configured into various shapes and sizes, with video projectors and presentation screens, all served by a commercial kitchen.
In an area where residential growth is expected, this community center came at the perfect time. Constructed for less than $126 per square foot (it came in under budget, in fact), financing was supported by a half-cent sales tax implemented in October 2000 with a 20-year sunset.
"Our goal is to cover 100 percent and develop reserve funds to go to future facility maintenance," Cotten explained.
It sounds like they're on their way.
W H A T T H E J U D G E S S A I D
Beautiful effort at reconciling size and quality with tight budget. Harrisonville got their money's worth.
Nice street appearance and use of materials to create a welcoming appearance.
A S S O C I A T E D F I R M S
Structural Engineering Associates Inc.
Henthorn Sandmeyer & Co.
Water's Edge Aquatic Design