A progressive new philosophy is behind the design of a new 110-acre park that is part of the Arapahoe Fairgrounds in Aurora, Colo. Phase 1 of the new fairgrounds park opened this summer.

It provides 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 that include two ponds and a meandering-stream play area.  

The theme of the park, designed by Denver’s Design Concepts, focuses on three central concepts: nature play, the history and heritage of the region, and 21st concepts about fairgrounds of the future.

The initial concept of the park was to blend the worlds of a suburban park with fairground activities, and where the two meet, “nature play” occurs. The goal in nature play is to bring kids back to nature using non-structured play—that’s play unbounded by structures or formality. It puts children in their natural environment, and the park has numerous opportunities to encourage that interaction.

The park also honors the history and heritage of the homesteaders who established farms and ranches on the high plains. Their lives included harsh weather—drought, blistering heat and freezing temperatures—and open prairie that offered little protection from harsh winds. The new park takes its design cues from the environment and rich history of the area’s original homesteaders by interweaving elements of their lives.

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 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.