The University of Minnesota Partners with CannonDesign


CannonDesign’s Sports Group is a core part of the firm’s global education practice with a focus on creating collegiate recreation facilities that enlighten minds and promote physical activity. We are committed to supporting our client’s goals and contributing to the campus life fabric.

CannonDesign has extensive experience creating new recreation centers and renovating older ones. The firm is equipped with a full suite of services from master planning to architecture, engineering, interior design and environmental graphics to help institutions deliver the best recreation environments possible. Dan Allen, the senior associate director of recreation and wellness at the University of Minnesota, discusses their experience working with CannonDesign. For more information visit,

How were you introduced to CannonDesign and why did you decide to partner with them?

DA: I have known the CannonDesign people for a while, through the conferences like NIRSA and Athletic Business. I got to know them that way. But the main reason we chose them was their experience. We liked the buildings they had built before. They also partnered with a local firm, Studio Five Architects, which was owned and run by an architect who was the university architect here at the University of Minnesota. We were very familiar with Studio Five and we felt very comfortable with them and I think we were impressed how they were working together. That is what we were looking for. We wanted someone of CannonDesign’s reputation and records, paired with a good local firm that we felt comfortable with. We felt they made a great team.

What was the project CannonDesign worked on at the university?

DA: We built an expansion to our existing recreation center. In 1993 we opened our first recreation center, and it was about 135,000 square feet. From the day it opened we knew it was too small. We knew we had to come back and expand. So 20 years later, that is what we did and we added another 175,000 square feet. It is one of those few projects where it really turned out as good, if not better, than we had hoped. The fact that we had opened up the earlier building helped because we learned a lot. Then CannonDesign and Studio Five were such a great team to work with.

Were you pleasantly surprised by working with CannonDesign in any way?

DA: I wouldn’t say surprised; I think it was a reaffirmation. I was always impressed with the people. You are hoping that when you actually work with them that they turn out to be as good as you though they were and CannonDesign really was. They were very opened minded and when you asked them to do something, they jumped right on it. It wasn’t a surprise, it was just a nice reaffirmation that yes they really are as good as I thought.

What else can you tell other recreation professionals about working with CannonDesign?

DA: The most important thing when it comes to selecting an architecture firm, is that they listen. If you get an architecture firm who is trying to tell how things should be all the time, that is not what you want. CannonDesign has got people who are very good listeners. They took in a lot of information, then they came back to us and made suggested based on what we had told them. I think that is the most important thing when you go through this process, find someone who really takes the time to listen and respond to what you need and not have them tell you what you should be doing.


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Emily Harbourne was a previous editor for Campus Rec Magazine.

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