Carla Madison Recreation Center near City Park is officially open

Carla Madison Recreation Center near City Park is officially open

Denver city officials cut the ribbon Monday on the city’s first truly urban-style recreation center, opening a marquee building that is expected to become the most popular in the city’s 28-facility system.

The Carla Madison Recreation Center, a $44 million project built at East Colfax Avenue and Josephine Street, has two pool areas on a garden level beneath a basketball gym and cardio floor. Among the other amenities spread across four main floors and 67,000 square feet are workout classrooms and an outdoor climbing wall.

The building is topped by a rooftop event space that offers stunning views of the downtown skyline and the mountains. (See more details about the rec center here.)

“Today represents the determination of so many people to bring a state-of-the-art recreation facility to an area of the city where there had been a gap for many years,” said Allegra “Happy” Haynes, the executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation.

Mayor Michael Hancock cut a red ribbon out front, with some 200 people gathered. Then the crowd moved inside, where former City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, who worked to secure money for the project when she represented central Denver, and current council president Albus Brooks dedicated a portrait of the center’s namesake.

Carla Madison was serving on the council when she died of cancer in 2011, at age 54. The longtime advocate for City Park West and nearby neighborhoods was elected to the council in 2007 and was known for dyeing her hair bright colors and wearing vibrant clothing. Brooks succeeded her on the council.

“Bold, adventuresome, colorful, kind and honorable — she just embodies the spirit of Colfax,” Robb said after the unveiling. “I’m so glad it was named after her.”

The portrait of Madison, done by artist Thomas Evans, is in the entryway of the building.

Upstairs, Hancock, Brooks, Haynes and deputy parks director John Martinez hopped on elliptical machines to demonstrate their connection to the center’s main piece of public art, an outdoor wall-covering LED display called “Circuit,” by artist Erik Carlson. The lights change colors as designated cardio room equipment is used by patrons.

The recreation center, which is classified as a “regional center” by Denver Parks and Recreation, was set to open its doors to the public at 5:30 p.m.

Among the new center’s features is an outdoor bouldering rock and a children’s natatorium with a lazy river, a tube slide and splash pools, as well as big water features. The third-level climbing wall is on a balcony, and it has an auto-belay system, which provides a braking apparatus for the climbing lines.

Three-year-old Lucy Markus peered down excitedly upon the children’s pool area from a lobby window.

“This is awesome,” said her mother, Maren. The North Capitol Hill family plans to join the center. “It’s gorgeous inside. We’ve been to places in Arvada like this, so we’re excited to have something like this near home.”

The rec center has a small parking lot and an agreement with nearby East High School to allow patrons to use its student parking lot off East 16th Avenue during the school’s off times.

For land acquisition, design and construction, the city tapped into a variety of sources, including the 2007 Better Denver Bonds program, an emergency reserve fund required by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, proceeds from the sale of the Market Street Station bus terminal and marijuana tax revenue.

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