This week, global design firm Populous, Saunders Construction, and the City of Aurora will celebrate the grand opening of Southeast Aurora’s 77,000-square-foot recreation center and field house at 25400 E Alexander Dr.
Construction commenced in February 2021, following an extensive public input process. The $41.9 million center reflects the needs and wants of the community in the southeast section of the city.
“As a community builder, Saunders has a long history of delivering facilities that create better, healthier and more connected communities in Colorado. We are proud to have delivered this project, working closely with Populous Architects and the City of Aurora,” said Tom Alford, senior vice president of Saunders. “This state-of-the-art facility is inspired by the diversity and connectivity of the Aurora community, bringing together art and. functionality seamlessly.”
Populous was selected to design the recreation center and field house to respect, celebrate and participate in its site, while also fulfilling the necessary requirements of operational efficiency, cost-effective design, and chiefly, betterment of the community. The project also provides the city’s first indoor field house. The project is the second ground-up recreation center constructed in over 40 years for the city — Populous also led the design of Aurora’s Central Recreation Center, awarded the Engineering News-Record Best of the Best Sports/Entertainment project in 2019.
“This new recreation center and field house stand apart as a breathtaking example of a community asset that is built to reflect, benefit and showcase its people and its landscape,” said Gudmundur Jonsson, senior architect and principal at Populous. “The City of Aurora now has another cost-effective and operationally-efficient space that will allow it to further serve its community.”
The center’s design was influenced by and leverages the site’s breathtaking views. Upon arrival, the center emerges from the landscape. Using resources such as a natural Douglas Fir structure and decking, the structure mimics the geography of a canyon, with a large open entryway that spans the length of the building and draws visitors into the canyon, providing expansive, unobstructed views through a glass curtainwall of the Rocky Mountains, from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak.
The design employs natural light throughout the space with glass walls providing visibility into the distinct areas such as the basketball courts. In addition, “Florescence,” a public art piece by Adam Buente of Project One Studio, extends from the entry to the far curtain wall. The Populous and Project One Studio teams worked together to combine community impressions of Aurora with the architecture of the space, making way for a piece that mimics Aurora’s landscape of human activity and the natural world, also depicting the diversity of its community.
An elevated running track extends from inside the gym out into the canyon entryway and along the curtainwall, incorporating changes in elevation throughout the loop. The path symbolizes a journey through the terrain and provides a unique exercise experience.
The fitness area includes a patio and garage door opening to outdoor training areas, creating a further link to the landscape. In addition to the gym, track and other outdoor fitness areas, the recreation center features a field house, pools, community spaces, various indoor exercise areas and lounges, creating a space fit for all residents.