Aurora Central Recreation Center visitors can experience a fun interactive slide – the first-of-its-kind in North America.
Visitors of the Aurora Central Rec Center – the City of Aurora’s first new recreation center in 40 years – are greeted with many unique features, the most impressive of which is an interactive slide (the first of its kind in North America). This slide, which ultimately inspired a functional work of art, was completed with praise from the community, but not before presenting coordination challenges that spanned across continents.
“The goal was to make the recreation center a destination and the slide was part of that vision for the client,” says lead architect Gudmundur Jonsson with Populous, the project architect.
With the slide’s uniqueness, the team knew the standard slide tower and stairs wouldn’t offer the best experience for riders preparing to start their journey. “We knew that the inexpensive metal slide tower wasn’t the correct solution for our client when considering the goal of the slide and long-term appearance,” Jonsson admits. The client challenged Jonsson and his team to execute a holistic theme around recreation, water, and energy, which would be represented by an energetic interior design.
The team proposed a solution that was part form and part function: a totally unique concrete tower, complete with dolphin inlays, circular openings and cantilevered stairs. Not only was concrete a perfect material for this highly corrosive, high humidity environment, but with careful design, it created a fitting look and feel for such a distinctive waterslide experience.
Says Jonsson, “The unique slide tower was integral to the overall theme. The recessed mosaic depicting colorful dolphins, along with the carefully placed circular openings, were a direct result of the development of the overall design theme.”
A challenge for the design team was to find ways to transform material that’s often thought of as bland into something that exuded the energy desired by the client. Executing that design was also challenging for the construction team.
Dave Gobbo, Senior Superintendent for the project’s general contractor, Adolfson & Peterson Construction (AP), admitted that it took “lots of extra effort, lots of homework. It’s not just throwing forms up; it’s going through renditions and drawings and making sure all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed before we poured the concrete.”
The team formed the concrete tower on the ground prior to standing it up. Coordination called for the perfect placement of three stories of inlaid dolphins, circular openings, and the keyway placement for stairs. These concrete stairs do not have any connection points other than to the main wall, giving the illusion of a floating staircase. Rebar needed to be placed perfectly to support the cantilevered stairs without interfering with the design elements.
Holes in the concrete created structural issues and required a significant amount of rebar for support. “Coordinating the stair cantilever, the circular openings throughout the wall, along with the slide water supply pipe that runs the entire height of the wall, took a significant effort between the structural engineer, aquatics engineer, and the architectural team,” says Jonsson. “Then the contractor and several of their subcontractors had to carefully execute the design.”
“We had to take account for and coordinate every element,” says Gobbo. “We had to literally lay out every piece of rebar on the wall before we put the form together ensuring the stair placement didn’t block the view of the dolphin designs. It was an amazingly cool undertaking. I think it took us six weeks to get it so precise, but it went off flawlessly.”
Coordinating the installation of North America’s first interactive slide also presented several electrical challenges. The overseas manufacturer needed to be in direct communication with the design team to ensure a strong understanding of the slide’s electrical requirements and physical integration. This was a time zone challenge as well as a technical challenge, as it required the team to think beyond their usual frame of reference and adapt accordingly.
The interactive slide includes lights and video screens inside. The rider can select one of three adventures before sliding down, which will change the graphics and the experience. Each ride is timed, which has created a fun and friendly competition that continues today.
Electrical wiring to support the slide was something Gobbo and his team had never had to coordinate before. “We had to take wiring up and around the slide, through conduit and then wire into a screen that’s hanging off the edge of the slide – then continue on to the next one and the next one,” he says. “There’s three of those, plus, getting the power to all the light components, which is another crazy aspect. It was a heck of a challenge to get it all coordinated.”
Challenges aside, at the end of the day, the slide is sleek and dynamic, the client is impressed and the team enjoyed their experience.
“We’ve got a one-of-a-kind stairway leading to a helluva cool one-of-a-kind slide,” admits Gobbo. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
City of Aurora’s First New Recreation Center in 40 Years Does Not Disappoint
The City was able to build an extraordinary new facility – breaking into a market of the latest and greatest recreational entertainment, stretching the definition of recreation far beyond the usual.
The result is a 61,250-sf facility that is art in and of itself. Instead of traditional egress stairways, the center’s concrete grandstand functions as egress, seating and aerobic exercise to stair-climb. The exceptional 38’ floating staircase required utmost concrete-expertise to build and it serves as a unique and functional art piece.
Unique amenities such as a wave pool (the first for a municipality in Colorado) and an interactive slide (the first of its kind in North America) have made the place an entertainment mecca. The City dedicated almost half a million dollars to custom art, integrated into the building itself, requiring strategic construction planning for proper integration. The facility supports new program opportunities with an escape room, a fitness grandstand, an outdoor fitness balcony and a teaching kitchen.