Nature Play, Regional Heritage, and New 21st Century Fairground Concepts Featured at Arapahoe Fairgrounds in Colorado

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Design Concepts reveals a progressive design philosophy behind fairgrounds design at the grand opening of The Park at Arapahoe Fairgrounds

Blending a park with a fairground facility opens up a new interpretation for the 21st century fairgrounds.

The innovative design approach is highlighted at the new 110-acre park, a new feature at Arapahoe Fairgrounds in Aurora, Colorado.

Phase 1 of the new fairgrounds park opened this summer providing a new main entrance to the park and fairgrounds, a central green with walkways and a plaza and picnic shelter, multi-use fields, nature play area, accessible loop path, natural surface trails, and water features including two ponds and a naturally meandering stream play area.

The Park Design
The theme of the park design focuses on three central concepts including nature play, interpreting the history and heritage of the region, and 21st concepts of fairgrounds of the future.

Nature Play
The initial concept of the park is to blend the worlds of suburban park with fairground activities and where the two meet, ‘nature play’ occurs. A primary goal in nature play is to bring kids back to nature.

Nature play is about non-structure play. It’s ‘free play’ unbounded by structures or formality. It’s putting children in their natural environment and letting their minds work naturally. Within the park, there are numerous opportunities provided to encourage that interaction.

Honoring the Heritage of the High Plains Prairie Homestead
Another design goal was to interpret the history of the region and its natural areas. The design of the park honors the history and heritage of the original homesteaders who farmed and ranched the regional high plains. This area of abundant opportunity also came with unique challenges including a variety of harsh weather—occasions of drought, seasons of blistering heat to freezing temperatures, and open prairie lands offering little protection from harsh winds. The park takes cues from this environment and its rich history by interweaving cues of this story.

21st Century Fairgrounds
The fairground aspect of the site includes all the facilities needed for major fair events: rodeo and riding arenas, exhibition spaces, a midway, RV and trailer accommodations, and flexible events buildings. Blending a park with a fairground facility opens up a new interpretation for the 21st century fairgrounds. Year-round space is now available, not just when programmed events occur. A new parade grounds and center green create a broader multi-use space for existing and new events such as dog shows, festivals and more.

Behind the Design Stories
A variety of ‘Behind the Design’ stories tell a rich level of design interpretation. Available by contacting the media contacts.

  • History and heritage of regional high plains homesteaders
  • Controlling water
  • Beauty of the utilitarian farm
  • Contouring the land
  • Jackleg / buck & rail fencing
  • Windmills
  • Archeology find
  • Natural play
  • Native seeding / seeding native
  • Formal and organic landscapes
  • The central plaza
  • A chicken coop influenced shade structure
  • Designing rust into the landscape – shed roof, gabion metal, gooseneck light fixtures
  • Native yuccas living in the pristine prairie meadow
  • Bringing back indigenous cattails
  • The quiet serene on the west zone offers hidden finds of history
  • Controlling the flow of vehicles
  • From the peak of the park … a view of two Colorado 14ers Pikes Peak (14,114′ elevation) & Longs Peak (14,259′ elevation)
  • ‘Farmer Ben’s’ corn rows
  • Plans for the future – phase 2 and beyond
  • Box canyon
  • All about logs: stepping logs, log crossings, log fences, chases and more
  • Water vault
  • Cap rock
  • Walk the ridgeline
  • Watch the difference of plant growth on north facing vs. south facing hills along the ridgeline
  • Importance of water – bringing it back on the site + the story of the stream + wells
  • 21st century fairgrounds
  • Designing for the wind
  • Trails
  • Seasonal plant stories

About Design Concepts
Founded in 1981, Design Concepts is in its 35th year providing thoughtful, innovative and dynamic designs for public and private spaces. Design Concepts is nationally recognized as a leader creating and re-imagining spaces that embrace community gathering, recreation and play, connections to nature, and a focus on the environment. They continue to innovate healthy communities, learning landscapes and entertaining outdoor community places. The firm’s current work includes a variety of learning landscapes, destination parks, projects plugging ‘nature into play,’ inclusive playgrounds, new recreation amenities, and planning for communities. To learn more about the firm visit: http://www.dcla.net.

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