Posted: March 3, 2023
Like many of his fellow Baby Boomers, Dave Lorenz started his career a few years out of college and just a few miles from where he was born and raised. A Denver native, Lorenz grew up in the north side of town, near Berkeley Hills Park, northwest of Denver’s Globeville neighborhood and just a few blocks northeast of Regis University.
Perhaps it was his proximity to these beautiful open spaces that influenced his nearly five-decades-long career with South Suburban Parks & Recreation, culminating in his role as executive director for the special district. Lorenz certainly played a key role in the organization during a time of tremendous growth.
Sports, fitness and the outdoors have always been a part of Lorenz’s life. “At Denver North High School I played football, wrestled and loved to go camping and hiking,” he said.
Lorenz’s passion for exercise continues today: He regularly attends fitness classes twice a week at his home, Holly Creek Life Plan Community in Centennial. He works out another three days a week at the Goodson Recreation Center, where he helped develop amenities and original programming.
After graduating from North in 1961, Lorenz was still not certain about what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, so he decided to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder and study engineering.
“Engineering didn’t do it for me so after talking to a friend who worked for Boulder Parks and Recreation, I thought that could be a fulfilling career, but CU didn’t offer that type of program,” Lorenz recalled. “So I set out to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, studied business and came back to Denver, where I worked for Denver Public School’s summer playground program.”
After working with the program for just a couple of summers, Lorenz headed about 10 miles south on the recently built Interstate 25 to apply for the recreation supervisor position at South Suburban, a parks and recreation special district incorporated in 1959. He started his new job in 1967 and retired in 2015.
In the 48 years Lorenz served with South Suburban, he saw a lot of change and growth. “When I started in ‘67, there were four people in our office, and we managed two swimming pools and an outdoor ice rink at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds,” he said.
Fast forward to 2023, and South Suburban now boasts four recreation centers; four golf courses; four outdoor swimming pools; 50 tennis courts; two ice rinks; more than 100 parks; 61 playgrounds; more that 3,800 acres of open space; and almost 100 miles of trails, including the Highline Canal Trail.
“I wore many hats at South Suburban and was fortunate we had leadership open to exploring new opportunities to improve and expand our parks and recreational amenities,” Lorenz said. “I helped secure a $2.9 million grant from the federal government to build the Sheridan Recreation Center, and it snowballed from there.”
After the Texas oil crash in the 1980s, Lorenz found out the Lone Tree Golf Club & Hotel was for sale and suggested adding it to South Suburban’s portfolio. It was purchased shortly after. When he discovered the Littleton Wellness Center was for sale, he recommended South Suburban purchase it as well. Through a generous donation by philanthropist Douglas H. Buck, the special district bought the wellness center and in 2005, opened a new community recreation center named after Buck.
Lorenz was also involved in South Suburban’s acquisition of the Family Sports Center near Centennial Airport. This new property added an indoor ice rink, tennis courts, a driving range and a 9-hole golf course.
“Nobody bid against us for the Family Sports Center, and we paid about $6 million. I’ve been lucky with these acquisitions by being in right place at right time,” Lorenz shared.
When asked what his proudest accomplishment with South Suburban was, he immediately replied, “helping develop the Goodson Rec Center.” Located near DeKoevend Park in Centennial (then unincorporated Arapahoe County) Lorenz’s proudest accomplishment is one he now gets to share regularly with his youngest son, who lives in Centennial along with one of his granddaughters and grandsons.
Lorenz’s middle son, two more grandsons and another granddaughter live near Chatfield Reservoir, within South Suburban district boundaries. “They love soccer and are going through South Suburban’s soccer program,” he said proudly. “Unfortunately, my oldest son and his two daughters live a little outside of the district, being in Massachusetts,” he added with a chuckle.
At Holly Creek, Lorenz is affectionately referred to as “Mr. South Suburban.” As a former employee and leader, and now as a customer, he’s earned that title.