By Steve Blackburn

An extraordinary transformation occurred in the Dallas-Fort Worth MetroPlex Parks, Recreation and Aquatics scene in 2015; The REC (Recreation-Education-Community) of Grapevine opened to great fanfare for area residents. The multi-generational recreation center features active-aging areas, a community event hall, a raised stage, classrooms, advanced fitness areas, two gyms and racquetball courts, an indoor children’s themed playground, an outdoor courtyard with special event/programming area, and a stunning aquatic center.

The original Grapevine Community Activities Center was built in 1996, and the 2015 expansion increased the square footage to 108,000. This facility was renovated to serve the growing community, which has placed real value on recreation, education, and service. Amenities for the renovation and addition were selected through citizen input in the feasibility planning stages, led by PROS Consulting. The project vision crafted in 2013 was simply this: “Provide a multi-generational facility to enhance quality of life and promote a sense of community.” The REC has accomplished this and so much more, evidenced by residents from age 1 to 100+, all having fun in one facility.

The Brand
As the 60,000 square-foot addition was being built, the city of Grapevine smartly rebranded itself as “The REC of Grapevine,” with the help of The Atkins Group Advertising Agency. Construction of the project began a year earlier and was completed on an accelerated schedule by the team of the city, Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, Water Technology, Inc., and A&P Construction. “The teamwork, heart, and dedication that was a part of this project was amazing,” says Kevin Mitchell, Grapevine’s Director of Parks and Recreation. “This was not just another job to this team; they ate, slept, and breathed Grapevine.”

The Aquatic Area
The natatorium has sports theming elements that pay tribute to the city as well as the state of Texas. A large decorative lone star, surrounded by small geysers, welcomes young swimmers at the zero-depth entry to the pool. The lively, interactive play structure, featuring grapes and vines, allows children to navigate the exhilarating areas of the “grapevine.” The children’s area, situated towards the front of the natatorium, allows seamless visibility for parents, who can choose to relax in the lounge or recline on a deck chair on the wide pool deck. The interactive structure is situated at the back part of the children’s area; a large zero-depth entry area is for smaller children to play in and pushes the bigger children to the back of the pool. Parents have increased sight lines, with plenty of space for children of all ages to play at the same time.

Grapevine’s active agers “55 and Better” enjoy the current channel, which provides for resistance walking. Social areas, such as bubble benches, provide great conversation zones in the water. The lap lanes serve multiple purposes, allowing for active-adult water aerobics in off-peak times.

Oh, My Stars
Aside from the resort feel of the leisure pool, there is an obvious design aesthetic one sees on entering the natatorium. The REC exhibits a clear sense of pride for Texas, and more specifically, the city. When a Texan sees a star, he or she thinks immediately of ”Deep in the Heart of Texas.” In lieu of lap lanes in the fitness teaching pool, stars mark the floor of the pool. The children’s zero-depth entry area has a large blue Texas star on the floor. The outdoor spray pad is in the shape of Texas, with spray sites originating from each significant Texas municipality. The most prominent city, of course, is Grapevine. Its bronze plate is four times the size of the others and includes the city logo.

Rock And Float
Additionally, the use of rock work and waterfalls provides a feeling of luxury and relaxation. While this is a recreation center, the design definitely leaves one with the feeling of a nice getaway because of the natural elements. The rockwork surrounds the current channel and activity pool, and the waterfall can be heard from all areas of the natatorium. The use of design elements that provide a resort feel is an entirely new and cutting-edge approach for municipal recreation centers, and will lead the way for other communities. All of the floatables pay homage to the elements that make the city special. There are clusters of grapes and trees—two elements that boldly embody the spirit of Grapevine—floating in the center of the activity pool. Reinforcing the theme, visitors immediately view the two-story, indoor-outdoor run-out slides with colors of a rich green (vines) and purple (grapes). The interior and exterior of The REC were specifically conceived, designed, specified, and engineered to highlight what makes the city so special.

Programs And Fun
Because Grapevine is a growing community, attendance is high at The REC, with many users competing for the same space. Through creative programming, design, and layout in the facility, each generation receives a great benefit from the aquatic spaces. For example, for the active agers, the design separates the two components that are most frequently used for exercise. The current channel is on the south end of the natatorium, while the lap pool is at the north end. This separates the members who want to resistance walk and those who want to lap swim. This design allows for the middle area of the pool to be open for anyone.

Outdoor Spray Pad
The outdoor spray pad features Texas theming as well. The pad is strategically located adjacent to the natatorium and in the outline of the state of Texas, with major cities of significance emblazoned in bronze, each with its own jet nozzle. A contemporary-designed shade structure shields the south face of the building and gives parents a cool place to lounge as their kids play in the water features.

Visual Connection And Light
The city is always on the cutting edge in terms of designs that best serve community members. One feature that makes the facility so distinctive is the use of space, visual connection, and light. The second-floor fitness center provides the ceiling for the lap pool, and anyone working out upstairs can look onto the leisure pool area. This makes both spaces feel larger. Clerestory windows and skylights allow lots of light, which the fitness center also uses. On the south side of the building are large windows that bathe the space with natural light. The building seems to glow with light as it stretches from one end of the natatorium to the upstairs gym.

Saving The Environment
The owner and design team were always mindful of where cost-saving measures could be employed. One of these was the water-filtration system. Using Neptune-Benson Defender Regenerative Media Filters for water filtration and disinfection provides for real cost and energy savings. The improved water quality generated by the Defender’s ability to remove finer particles will also save on general chemical consumption. Additionally, because the footprint for the Defender is much smaller, there will also be a construction savings.

The amazing transformation of an activity center that had served the community for over two decades is now the showpiece of the DFW MetroPlex. It truly is 108,000 square feet of awesome, offering great amenities for everyone in the community. The REC now provides more fun, and the wow factor is off the charts.

Steve Blackburn, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture. For the past 30 years, he has dedicated himself to the programming and design of recreation and wellness facilities in more than 125 communities and 60 colleges and universities throughout the United States. Reach him at



The REC of Grapevine Wet and Wow fun, designed and engineered by Water Technology, Inc. includes:

·        A two-story interactive play structure with a dumping-bucket wheel and run-out slide themed to echo a dramatic feature of West Lothian, Scotland, which is Grapevine’s sister city. The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat-lift in Scotland, connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal.

·        A Lone Star graphic on the pool floor

·        A dual indoor-outdoor waterslide complex, featuring run-out body flume slides

·        Four lane x 25-yard fitness pool

·        Two bubble couches

·        Two hydrojet benches

·        Two themed floatables

·        An activity pool area with basketball hoops and water volleyball

·        A zero-depth entry into children’s area and leisure pool

·        A waterfall complete with rock details

·        A lazy river

·        An adult whirlpool spa

·        An outdoor spray pad with varying spray pattern