Council OKs $10K for bubble

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Spurred by a $10,000 donation from the tennis community, the City Council gave the go-ahead for architectural and engineering studies to replace the tennis bubble.

After 14 months of research, The Tennis Center Facility Replacement Committee told the council that replacing the falling down tennis bubble with another tennis bubble was not an option. Instead, the group proposed a building made of a frame and fabric that would be better suited for Steamboat Springs' harsh climate.

In a PowerPoint presentation to the council, committee member Randy Reed said a frame structure would have a longer life than a bubble, be less expensive to replace and cut down on utility costs.

The frame-and-fabric structure would not be as expensive as building a permanent building, and its fabric would stand up better to Steamboat's weather than the bubble. In the summer, the fabric panels could be opened up to cool the facility.

More than 25 residents from the tennis community attended the presentation. At the end of the presentation, Joel Toy from the Steamboat Tennis Association presented a $10,000 check to the council earmarked for the bubble replacement.

The council agreed to use the $10,000 for the estimated architectural and engineering fees for the initial planning process.

Council President Paul Strong said more information about the alternatives -- keeping a bubble or building a metal building -- could have been presented.

"I was not ready to (spend $10,000) with the information that we received, but I am happy to spend your $10,000," Strong said.

Strong asked for more information on the options the next time the committee came before the council.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell encouraged the tennis community to find partners in building the center and to look at using it as a multiuse facility. The city's budget is strapped, Connell said, and the demands for community improvements are overwhelming.

Steamboat Ski Corp., the lodging community and other recreation groups in the area could be partners, Connell said.

Reed said the groups foremost task was to look at how the facility could go forward as a tennis facility, but the group has looked at other uses for tje facility including soccer fields and racquetball courts.

"We have begun some of these talks and are more than willing to march forward," Reed said.

During the presentation, Reed said the tennis bubble is coming apart at the seams as council members looked at pieces of plastic that have fallen off the bubble. The tennis bubble was built in 1991 and was predicted to have a life span of 12 to 15 years.

"We are operating on borrowed time," Reed said. In the city's long-term capital improvement plan, replacing the tennis bubble was budgeted for $1 million in 2005.

The committee said the cost per square foot for a frame-and-fabric structure ranged from $16 to $22. Using the measurements of the existing tennis bubble, the cost of that kind of structure would translate to between $477,664 and $656,788.

The committee estimated a bubble costs from $11 to $15 per square foot and a metal building costs from $18 to $45 per square foot.

In its next presentation to the council, Reed said the group would have more details on the exact costs of constructing frame-and-fabric structures, the savings on utilities, partnerships and fund-raising possibilities.

In the presentation, Reed said more than 1,000 residents use the facility more than three times a year, and more than 400 people use the center more than seven times per quarter.

The tennis center, which is opened 12 hours a day for 363 days a year, serves more than 4,200 visitors each year.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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