City considers rec center

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Steamboat Springs City Council members said they want to partner with the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association, and they put down more than $50,000 to prove it.

At Tuesday night's meeting, the council agreed to spend $37,000 on Phase 2 of a feasibility study to look at building a community recreation center. Council members also agreed to contribute $16,800 to the Health and Recreation Association's planning costs.

The main question Tuesday night was how the city's plan for a community recreation center and the community's need for more recreation space could mesh with the expansion of the existing Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center, a nonprofit entity.

"What we have here in Steamboat Springs is very unique. I am not aware of any thing like it in Colorado or even in the country," Councilman Ken Brenner said about the Health and Rec Center, where he works. "It is a real important time for the City Council to make a decision to continue its partnership."

In 2000, the city completed the first phase of a $40,000 feasibility study that recommended a second study to determine whether the city should move forward with building a community recreation center. The second phase would examine a community recreation center and the partnering, financing, site design, conceptual plans and operations tied to it.

Health and Rec Association board member Mike Holloran referred to the Health and Rec pools as the goose that laid the golden egg, noting that most municipalities have to pay to build and operate community swimming pools.

Holloran said the Health and Rec Association someday might ask the city to contribute to part of future construction costs. The first phase of the Health and Rec Center's expansion is estimated to cost between $6 million and $8 million, which is more than what the Health and Rec Association can take on, he said. The expansion is scheduled to start in fall 2006.

"We have no specific figures, but we want the city to come with an open mind," Holloran said.

Board member Bud Romberg also said that to continue to meet the needs of the community, the Health and Rec Association couldn't cover the entire cost of the expansion.

"Don't kill the goose that leaves the golden egg. Here is a facility that is operating in the black. We want to continue doing that, want to continue to provide services to the community," Romberg said.

The first part of the expansion includes renovating the hot springs and building a second-story structure over the existing parking lot. The expansion would give the Health and Rec Association more room for its current facilities, which are crowded, executive director Pat Carney said.

For the first time, the possibility exists for expanding into the adjacent U.S. Postal Service site at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue. Carney said the new postmaster is exploring options to relocate the facility.

Long-term plans for the Health and Rec Center include a multilevel parking garage, a gym and a running track occupying the current post office site. Long-term plans also include more pools at the Health and Rec Center's existing site.

Councilwoman Nancy Kra--mer said that the city and Health and Rec Association first should look at their program needs. She pointed to the arts community, which realized that a large performing arts center might not be an economically feasible solution to meeting all its needs. Instead, the arts community broke down its needs into smaller segments.

"Some of us have fallen in love with the idea of a variety of different venues in different locations. When it comes to recreation, we already see that happening with the Tennis Center, pools, ball fields," she said.

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