Update On Central Denver Rec Center

This information and these pictures come courtesy of our delegate to the Stakeholder committee Aaron Goldhamer.

Dear Congress Park Neighbors,

I hope you find this update concerning the new Recreation Center useful and interesting. It is great to see a new amenity coming to our neighborhood, and I’m excited to share this update!

Denver Parks and Rec held a public meeting on May 6, 2015, at 6 PM at East High School. Below is what I saw and heard.

Construction Timeline:

Construction is scheduled to start in August of this year! The recycling center will close in July, and the dog park will close in August. Expect a groundbreaking ceremony in September. The Center will hopefully open in the first quarter of 2017. It sounds like there is still some sign-off required from the State prior to construction with respect to the environmental issues left behind by the SunMart, but the City seemed confident that those issues would be resolved.

There is no signed contract with a general contractor yet.


The most exciting part of the meeting concerned a first look of the Center and site’s design. The site will feature outdoor seating in various locations, and is designed to be welcoming as people approach from various different directions. A well-worn shortcut path made by years of East students behind the Sullivan Gate will (eventually) be transformed into an activity-filled pathway and/or social plaza, with outdoor ping-pong tables, a bouldering feature, and slacklining. A smaller dog park (9700 sq. ft. vs. the present 44000 sq ft.) will be maintained on the site in the northwest corner.

The building will be to LEED Gold environmental standards (low flow fixtures, LED lighting, etc.). Some roof space will be available for photo-voltaic solar paneling.

There is a lot of transparency to the building, so activity will be visible from all around, and the building will have plenty of natural light. Several of the studio rooms will have garage-type doors that can open to let in plenty of fresh air, and there will be some mountain views at the higher levels. The building will be largely brick, with several different patterns and textures.

The present budget is $24.8 million. This amount will pay for a “base” project with the following features:

*Warm water leisure pool (room for some swim lessons, recreational lap swimming, a water slide, current channel, play area, zero depth entry space, etc.)
*Cooler-temp competitive lap pool (8 lanes, swim-meet capable, depth from 4′ to 13′, diving board)
*Gymnasium (lined for either one full-sized basketball court or two smaller courts)
*Weight/cardio space
*Functional training/Personal Training areas
*Group exercise room
*Fitness studio
*Multipurpose community meeting rooms
*Flexible classroom space
*Drop-in childcare
*Party room(s)
*Administrative and other building support space

There is currently a contingency of 11% built into the budget. This contingency can be used to account for rising construction costs, unforeseen site conditions, etc. Hopefully it won’t have to be used on the “base” construction! If there is additional money, and/or if the city can obtain additional funds, the following “additional” items will be added to the Rec Center on a rolling basis once the building shell is complete:

*Walk/Jog track elevated around the gymnasium (about 12 laps for a mile) — approximately $400K
*Rooftop event space, with a catering kitchen, a sheltered gathering space, and some turf-field activity area — aprx. $1.2 M
*Climbing wall on the exterior of the building (only accessible from within the building during operation hours) — aprx. $330K
*Improvements to plaza / walkway behind Sullivan Gate (cost unclear)

Over 200 applications were submitted for the public art to be incorporated into the project, and those applications have been narrowed to five finalists, who will be interviewed this month.


A variance was obtained to permit some additional parking on site. There will be 30 staff parking spaces and about 100 spaces for the public on the site itself. The City is continuing to negotiate with D.P.S. concerning shared parking in the East High student/teacher parking lots. Note that Josephine is presently three lanes between Colfax and 17th, but that the right lane in that stretch will be converted to a parking lane.

There will also be 86 bike parking spots, and the 15-bike B-Cycle station will be moved slightly but remain on-site. Bike Denver is working with the City on improving bicycle connectivity.

C.D.O.T. will be performing some overlay work in the area on Colfax this summer, and the City is coordinating sidewalk improvements like ramps at corners in connection with that work. Crosswalks in the area may be widened from 10 feet now to 15 feet. Countdown pedestrian crosswalk timers will be installed, and cycles will be adjusted to account for new Federal guidelines on the allotment of time to cross (3.5 feet per second). There is not likely any room for a pedestrian “safety island” in the middle of the street, and C.D.O.T. doesn’t like to encourage people to stand in the middle of the street.

Naming the Center:

Parks & Rec has an official naming policy. The Rec Center may be named for someone of historical significance to the community or to an event related to the area, or for a significant donor (in the area of $12 million, half the project budget). Groups interested in naming the Center for someone must collect 500 signatures on petitions to be distributed by Parks & Rec in mid-May, and will have 90 days to collect signatures. Submissions will then be provided to the Parks & Rec Advisory Board, which will make a recommendation to Lauri Dannemiller, Manager of Parks & Rec., who can either accept the recommendation or send it back to the Advisory Board. Ms. Dannemiller will make a recommendation to City Council, which has ultimate authority over the issue.

Ongoing Negotiations with D.P.S.:

Shared-use agreements concerning East High’s use of the pool and the Rec Center’s use of the student/teacher parking is ongoing. Also ongoing are negotiations to use East’s turf field when it is available.

Additional Development at the Site:

The present plans call for a separate retail building along Colfax. The City is planning to sell a piece of the site, which will help boost the available funds for the overall project. The retail space will be approximately 3200 square feet. The City will maintain architectural and usage control in connection with that space and will be accepting proposals shortly. Rather than incur the cost of constructing retail space now and then leasing it, and given the need for capital funds at the project, the City will simply be selling a piece of the parcel (it is unclear if the City will construct a pad first concurrently with the Rec Center construction). Contact jeffrey.steinberg@denvergov.org for more information.

Additionally, some preliminary plans contemplated some additional development–perhaps housing–at the site on the north side, abutting 16th Ave. The City has no plans to go forward with anything along those lines at the moment, and preliminary discussions have suggested that the required underground parking to replace any parking spots lost to that development would be prohibitively expensive.


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Update On Central Denver Rec Center — 8 Comments

  1. This is going to be a much-needed and exceptional addition to the neighborhood – thanks to all who have persevered to make it happen. Parking is always an issue, and Colfax is a heavily traveled thoroughfare; may this not negatively impact the area.

  2. The new Rec Center will be great when it opens. I can’t wait. I am disappointed that I didn’t see racquetball courts on the list of activities the center will provide. Not too many of the rec centers have racquetball courts. Considering this is new and in the planning I was hoping that racquetball courts would be considered in the planning. Very disappointed!!

  3. I have lived in the area for 15 years and am SO excited. Please let is know as soon as there is an updated open date! Thank you to everyone who is making this happen.

  4. Any idea when it’s opening, now?
    I know a different person asked about this in April, it’s been three months since you responded. We’ve had great weather all summer, which would have been great for construction. I’m excited for it.

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