Center meeting targets concerns

Residents discuss recreation facility


— People who attended a community forum Thursday shared dozens of ideas about what a Steamboat Springs recreation center should include.

But some weren't sure how realistic those plans were, especially when it comes to funding.

A couple dozen people -- including city officials, teens and seniors -- attended the meeting in the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Ken Ballard, president of the recreation facility-planning firm Ballard King & Associates, led the meeting.

Ballard's firm conducted a feasibility study for a recreation center in Steamboat six years ago. There has been little action since then, and Thursday's meeting was part of a public input process meant to move the concept forward.

Several people said they were concerned about how the city would come up with the money to build a recreation center.

Doug Monger, a Routt County commissioner, said the importance of building a center "depends on who's paying for it."

"It always comes down to dollars," he said.

Steamboat resident Paula Begay said she didn't know how the city would pay for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of a center once it was built.

"I think that would be major," she said.

Begay also suggested the city look into helping the Health and Recreation Association expand its downtown recreation center. The Health and Recreation Association is a nonprofit organization unaffiliated with the city.

"That would be more appropriate use of our money," Begay said after the meeting.

Chris Wilson, the city's director of parks, open space and recreation, said the city's finance director would review ways to pay for and maintain a center if the City Council were to direct him to do so.

"There's a myriad of options available that the community can look at," Wilson said.

Monger said the people who attended Thursday's meeting likely had a vested interest in a recreation center, adding that he was curious about the level of interest among people who didn't attend the meeting and how willing they would be to pay for it.

The recreation center process hasn't moved forward since 1999 because it hasn't been a priority for the community, Monger said.

"Somehow, we need to keep track of reality here as we move forward," he said.

Wilson pointed out that a cross-section of the community -- teens, seniors, adults and sports enthusiasts -- attended the meeting.

"That is our community," he said.

The future of the Steamboat Springs Community Center was another question brought up Thursday. The community center will be torn down to make room for the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library. City Council members have said the city will build a new community center before the old one is razed.

"We need to follow through with that" commitment, Begay said after the meeting.

At the end of the meeting, Ballard asked people to vote for the amenities they would want in a recreation center. The top four choices, in order, were: an indoor pool, areas dedicated to seniors and teens and a gymnasium.

Shannon Lukens, a member of the group Steamboat Parents for an Aquatic Recreation Cen--ter Soon, or SPARCS, told the group the community needs an indoor pool, particularly on cold days such as Thursday.

"It's for our health, too," she said. "We're a very athletically minded community."

In addition to Thursday's public forum, recreation officials are taking other steps to gather input about a recreation center. Focus groups met Thursday, and local teens, city officials, parks and recreation commissioners and others will tour recreation centers in other Colorado communities today.


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