In addition to the usual bells and whistles, this state-of-the-art facility features an escape room, a drop-in childcare service, the first water slide of its kind in North America, and the first indoor wave pool of its kind in Colorado.

For months I've been driving by the construction at Tower Road and E. Vassar Place, watching with interest as, piece by piece, the 61,250-square-foot Central Recreation Center has taken shape. But nothing could prepare me for all the incredible features on the inside of this building – and for how well-thought-out this entire facility is, from beginning to end.

Recreation Center exterior

Courtesy of Joy Moore

The City of Aurora purchased the 22-acre plot of land for the center more than 20 years ago. But it wasn't until 2015, when the Aurora city council decided to use marijuana tax revenue to build the center, that the project really got going. At three different community meetings, city officials requested the input of residents, who were then able to submit votes toward the various amenities they wanted the center to possess – like a gym, an aquatics center, and classrooms. 

For starters, let's talk about the artistic theme, woven into almost every fiber of the design. From the suspended sculpture in the entrance to the painted art glass, all the way down to the design of the individual colors in the tiles, the entire facility speaks of movement. Artists David Griggs and Scott Parsons collaborated with the architect to incorporate the theme of movement into every aspect of the building.

Even the wall in the family locker room bears a motif of individual blue and white tiles arranged to represent and abstractly resemble the splashing and movement of water. 

"Central Recreation Center is home to one of the most prominent installations of integrated art in a U.S. recreation center," a statement from Populous, the architectural firm tasked with the creation of the facility, reads. "The building was designed to accommodate the art components titled 'Aspire,' seamlessly integrating the artwork with the architecture to inspire each other, and, along with the human activity, work together in an ongoing dance to create a singular composition."

A palette of six colors was used throughout the building, Populous's Gudmundur Jonsson, the senior architect on the $34 million project, explained. Everything down to the furniture and floors stays true to the colors and theme.

In addition to the interior touches, it was very important to the City of Aurora that the recreation center not be an eyesore to the neighborhoods surrounding it. As a result, Central Recreation Center rises above West Toll Gate Creek looking sleek and modern, and exuding light and color.

The Aquatics Area

One of the coolest things about the 18,000-square-foot pool area is the 220-foot-long water slide – the first of its kind in North America. Featuring computerized theme programming, you can choose from three different themes (like a jungle, for instance) to customize your sliding experience. Video screens will display images to help create the setting.

The indoor wave pool is the only one like it in the state of Colorado. Plus, a lazy river, a sprayground area for kiddos, a hot tub, a leisure pool, and a lap pool make for a complete indoor waterpark experience.

The Gym and Fitness Area

Like a lot of features in the recreation center, the gymnasium makes efficient use of space. Though there's only room for one game of traditional basketball, there are six basketball hoops, allowing for two miniature games to go on. There's also room for two games of volleyball and three games of pickleball. 

The grandstand-style seating area can be used by spectators to watch a game-in-progress or by athletes working on stretching or endurance training. Upstairs, a 1/10-mile padded running track surrounds the fitness area which includes a variety of workout equipment, like treadmills, ellipticals, stepmills, upright bikes, recumbent bikes, spin bikes, weights, and more. Downstairs, there are two more large spaces with mirrors set aside for fitness classes.

Other Amenities

Central Recreation Center is the third Aurora center with a teaching kitchen, and this one features a large instructor island and three stations, along with high-end appliances. Raised garden beds on the west side of the center will grow vegetables and herbs to be used in the onsite cooking classes.

Also, multi-purpose rooms are available in a variety of sizes and can be cordoned off as needed. Each has its own water supply and would make a great place for parties. In addition, a large patio outside has two grills and built-in seating, and a balcony upstairs would also make an ideal place for a fun gathering.

One of the best features is the Child Watch service! As long as they stay onsite, adults can leave their children in the childcare room for up to 90 minutes for $3, during certain hours of the day. The room and staff can accommodate up to 20 children, ages three months and up, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Oh, and the clincher? This place even has its own escape room!

One thing is for sure: This place is going to be busy. If there is still any discussion about whether or not the legalization of marijuana was a good thing for Aurora, Central Recreation Center definitely puts its own spin on the conversation. This is a state-of-the-art facility that is designed to bring the community together in a variety of ways. You don't even have to be a resident of Aurora to enjoy it! 

exterior of recreation center

Courtesy of Joy Moore

Located at 18150 E. Vassar Place in Aurora, Central Recreation Center is open Monday–Thursday, 5 a.m.–10 p.m.; Fridays, 5 a.m.–8 p.m.; and Saturday–Sunday, 8 a.m–7 p.m. For more information on prices and programs, visit the City of Aurora website

What do you think? Will you become a member of Central Recreation Center? Are you excited about this addition to the community? Tell us in the comments!