Mega Complex Saves Mega Bucks

By Dan J. Roszkowski and Mike Dudek

When the Rockford Park District in Rockford, Ill., opened its Indoor Sports Center on Mercyhealth Sportscore Two campus in May 2017, it became one of the largest sports facilities of its kind in the state. It was also the last in a series of projects for Reclaiming First—a community-wide initiative created to enhance and enlarge the region’s amateur sports facilities and reclaim dominance in sports tourism. The expansion, located on the park district’s Mercyhealth Sportscore Two campus, is a 125,000-square-foot building, with a 94-foot ceiling, and can accommodate up to six soccer games or two softball games simultaneously. The entire complex, including the new building, the existing remodeled building, and a connecting corridor, is 193,000 square feet, and is used for soccer, softball, baseball, lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, and rugby tournaments. More than 1.4-million spectators and athletes use the facilities each year.


Cost Analysis
New construction and renovation for the Indoor Sports Center began in March 2016. The key to the project’s success was an overall team approach. The park district did its due diligence early on and brought in key players who provided in-depth analysis on the best strategy to follow to ensure the proposed structure would be sustainable within the park district’s annual budget, including utility and maintenance costs. Upfront analysis of costs and benefits determined the following:

1. Install radiant heat.
The park district enlisted the help of the Smart Energy Design Assistance Center (SEDAC)—free assistance provided to the public sector by the state. SEDAC provided key recommendations on designing a building with energy efficiency. As the architects, our firm, Larson & Darby Group, worked with both SEDAC and the park district to implement SEDAC’s recommendations, and in some cases, enhance them. For example, SEDAC’s analysis concluded that installing radiant heat below the entire surface of the indoor field would be the most efficient heating option. We agreed with radiant heat, but realized it made more sense to put it around the perimeter of the building—mainly where spectators would be. The athletes running up and down the field would generate their own heat! The theory was that the radiant heat would rise to the ceiling and be distributed by bullet fans. Heating a building of this size can be an extreme burden, and installing radiant heat where only spectators will be saved the district at least 27 percent in energy bills. Additionally, comfort will improve by 100 percent because there should be no drafts or cold spots.

2. Build a steel structure.
Upfront work included a cost comparison between building a conventional steel structure and using a pre-engineered building. It’s common for buildings of this size to be pre-engineered because of the initial cost savings and in many instances, it works well. The architects and contractors conducted a cost analysis that showed the conventional frame was a more cost-effective solution when factoring in siding, roofing, and insulation systems. The wall siding used was a 2-inch factory-assembled system that provided good insulation, as well as an architectural surface on both sides. The TPO roofing system allowed for 4-1/2 inches of rigid insulation, which greatly enhanced the heating/cooling of the building.

Additional cost savings, comfort, and efficiency features include:

  • Energy-recovery, make-up air units. Along with the radiant heat, two make-up air units were added to bring in fresh air and exhaust stale air.
  • Destratification fans. To control the rise of heat, destratification fans help de-stratify air and reduce the heating loads. The building is not air-conditioned, so this—along with the white roof and building panels—will reduce the heat gain in the summer.
  • Daylighting. The 5-foot insulated Kalwall daylighting band around the building provides enough daylight to have the lights off in the building when not in use and minimal lighting on dimmers in the winter months.
  • LED lighting. This feature around and within the sports center provides a 47-percent savings over traditional metal-halide lighting. The system was designed to allow lights to be turned on in sections with a wireless (handled) control. Automation provides significant savings by only having the lights turned on as needed, while LEDs can last 100,000 hours, which nearly eliminates maintenance costs for 10 to 20 years. New LED parking-lot lighting also replaces existing fixtures, reducing the cost to light the area by 50 percent and reducing the glare to the outdoor fields.
  • Automated curtains. This feature allows for an entire field to be used or broken down into halves or quadrants as needed. This allows for more than one team to practice or even have golf in half of the area (if divided lengthwise).  
  • Water conservation. Low-flow faucets and dual-flush green-handle toilets were installed to provide water conservation (an important component of the park district’s overall goal of saving on utilities).

A Team Approach
If your district is launching a project of any size or scope, make sure the architect, civil engineer, and general contractor work collaboratively. Each team member should be active in attending mandatory meetings and communicate on a regular basis.

The quotation, “Team work makes the dream work,” holds true for all teams—a soccer team, a softball team, a rugby team, or a team assembled to build a sports facility. By coming together as a team, we were able to find ways to build a mega sports complex to meet the park district’s overall objectives, and be a sustainable and efficient facility to be used by millions of amateur athletes for years to come.

Dan J. Roszkowski, AIA, NCARB, is President and Principal of Larson & Darby Group in Rockford, Ill. An architect for more than 30 years, he has worked extensively with the city of Rockford and Rockford Park District in developing concepts, plans, and design for turning the former Ingersoll Complex into a modern indoor sports and recreation facility. Reach him at

Mike Dudek, RA, LEED AP BC & C, is Director of Construction Administration & Sustainability at Larson & Darby Group. He has 25 years in architectural, construction, and finance experience with a focus on balancing time and money to create maximum value for the client. Mike is also involved with providing LEED services to clients and incorporating rebates and tax credits for energy-efficient projects. Reach him at