ULI 2017 Developments of Distinction: Excelsior Springs Community Center

The Excelsior Springs Community Center is a $15 million project that has received industry attention for its successful adaptation of a former school site with various elevations and challenges.

“This is something the community had been calling for for 25 or more years. There was a huge need in the community for this facility, so we felt we had a really awesome opportunity to make a huge impact,” said Kerry Newman, principal of SFS Architecture.

One of the project’s challenges included building the facility on a site with a significant slope. A significant amount of earth work wasn’t feasible, according to SFS Associate Brian Garvey, so the design team came up with a concept that included a central ramp "spine" linking various spaces within the campus.

“The ramp links the spaces together and makes it more likely (for guests) to take the ramp and sometimes unknowingly get a little more exercise,” Garvey said.

The project also required public input and voter approval.

“I think was a huge challenge early on that there needed to be consensus to pass the tax that funded the center,” Newman said. “Merging that with business planning to make sure it would work financially for city... all those things had to be legitimized going into the referendum and the community had to believe in the work.”

The Excelsior Springs Community Center had a goal of 1,000 members in the first year, but membership blew past that in the first few months.

“It’s been very successful and a big economic impact to the community," Newman said. "Just delivering everything the community needed and maximizing the value of everything that would be there by making it exciting and multigenerational, with diverse user groups, and then bringing all those things together on an existing school campus.... I think it was a challenge and we succeeded.” 

Brittany Probst, facility supervisor, said the center is changing lives for its more than 2,000 members.

“There is a fitness aspect of it which is what people associate with a community center, but there’s also a social aspect to it,” Probst said. “Families who (previously) went home and watched TV all night, and that was their social time together, now they’re coming here and swimming as a family or playing pickle ball and basketball as a family, so it’s gratifying to hear every time someone says, ‘This facility has changed my life,’  because that’s why we are here.”

Project partners include: City of Excelsior Springs, developer; SFS Architecture, architecture services; Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, architecture services; Crossland Construction, general contractor; Water Technology, Inc., engineering services; Henderson Engineers, engineering services; GBA, engineering services; SK Design Group, engineering services; Confluence, landscape architecture, Ballard*King & Associates, consulting services.