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Everyone's heard of park and ride. But park and punt?
The unusual architectural twist of building a sports field on top of a parking garage is here, and after seeing it for the first time Monday, many were marveling about the concept.
"I was amazed," said Maryanne Fisco, a club rugby player and a psychology major entering her senior year at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "That's one of the best ideas you can come up with - you kill two birds with one stone. We desperately needed a practice area and parking space."
UCCS, the local campus of the University of Colorado system, officially opened the Alpine Parking Garage and Recreational Field on Monday near the intersection of Austin Bluffs Parkway and Stanton Road.
The four-story parking garage provides 1,234 additional spaces at the burgeoning campus that's expected to set another enrollment record this fall. It also has four electric-vehicle plug-in stations.
The fifth, rooftop level boasts two multi-purpose, open-air artificial turf fields that provide an expansive view of Pikes Peak and the foothills.
"I had never heard of such a thing, but it fits with the innovation this campus has been known for," said Bob Hughes, who taught sociology at UCCS for 35 years before retiring in 2006 and in the 1970s became the school's first soccer coach.
"This campus has always had to be creative and find new ways to do old things," he said.
The fields will be open for intramural and recreational use for soccer, rugby, lacrosse, flag football, fitness classes and other events.
"We were so excited for it to open," said Fisco, the rugby player. "It's a place to call home."
The site also includes stadium seating for 84 people, a lightning detection system and solar panels that help power lights in the parking garage. Safety nets to prevent balls from going over the edge also are being installed.
The inventive design is the largest of its kind in Colorado and the western United States, said UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley- Zalabak.
The 1-acre playing field "utilizes one-fifth of the land and gives us additional buildable space for future needs and protects our open and cultural spaces," she said.
Poor weather delayed the opening by five months but did not impact the $23 million cost, said Gary Reynolds, assistant vice chancellor for administration at UCCS.
UCCS also opened a new $14.5 million Academic Office Building on Monday near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Regent Circle. The 40,000- square-foot building has 110 contemporary faculty offices.
Some 1,600 students will start moving into dorms Tuesday, and classes begin Aug. 25. On-campus enrollment is expected to top more than 11,000 students this fall semester, the most in its 49-year history.
Work on an expansion of the campus recreation center also will get underway Tuesday.