Residents at a meeting Thursday were asked to rate the priority level of a new recreation center in Steamboat Springs.
One person thought that priority was low. Two or three rated it in the middle. And the rest -- about 130 -- raised their hands to say, 'It's high.'
The lunchtime meeting, held in a packed Olympian Hall, included dozens of teenagers, several city officials and some seniors. Ken Ballard, president of the recreation facility planning firm Ballard King & Associates, led the meeting along with Andrew Barnard, vice president of the sports architectural firm Sink Combs Dethlefs.
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 meant to move the concept forward.
To start the meeting, Ballard asked about the area's existing recreation facilities and what was lacking. Themes that came up often were that facilities are old, dilapidated and too small, give limited access to the public and are under-equipped and not family-oriented.
Ballard also asked everyone to create a wish list of the types of activities or spaces they would like to see in a community recreation center. They came up with about 30 ideas, including:
Activities for teenagers. The teens suggested an arcade, a younger-than-21 dance club, laser tag, a place to watch movies, an indoor skatepark, paintball and study rooms. "It has to be a place where we can go and do something. It needs to be a big deal; it can't be just like a big room," 17-year-old Emma Stopher-Griffin said.
Places for youths. Parents said they wanted to move after-school and summer programs away from the Igloo, the trailer next to Howelsen Ice Arena. Toddlers need an indoor playground besides the one at the McDonald's, they said. Parents also wanted a kids' or leisure pool with slides.
Athletics facilities. People said they wanted an indoor lap pool, a climbing wall, a fieldhouse with an artificial turf field, rooms for classes and mat activities, a track, racquetball courts, weights, batting cages and cardiovascular equipment.
Other ideas included community meeting rooms, rooms for band practice, public computers, a kitchen and a restaurant.
People were asked to mark the three activities that were most important to them. Some of the most popular ideas were the dance club, pools, laser tag, a track, a climbing wall, an arcade and a gymnasium.
The community recreation center is a different concept than the community center, Steamboat Recreation Supervisor Susan Petersen told the audience. The Lincoln Park Community Center will be torn down as part of the Bud Werner Memorial Library expansion projects. City Council members have said they would work to build a new center before the old one is razed.
Steamboat resident Lisa Harner said she was confused about why there had to be two centers instead of combining the community's needs into one.
There can be one big center, Ballard said. "There's no reason that can't be considered. It's done all the time," he said.
Channing Reynolds said he would like to see choices about the centers made carefully.
"We've seen some hasty decisions made in our community. That's just the reason that we're here," Reynolds said. "We need to do it right the first time so it's not another Band Aid."
Residents had different ideas about who should be involved with or run a recreation center. A couple of people discussed a recreation district, which could be a taxing entity that extends outside of the city. Several people expressed concern about asking Steamboat to pay for the center, because other Routt County residents likely would use the center, too. Other suggestions were to have the city run the center and to involve the schools in the process.
Karen Connell, a member of the health and recreation board, said she was concerned about the center undermining the future of the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center downtown.
"We're getting a little nervous because this facility sounds great; we don't want this center to be so great ... that we can't make it anymore," Connell said.
Another woman said she saw the Heath and Rec Center as a niche spot that should remain because of its hot springs but that a new community recreation center could provide so much more.
Near the end of the meeting, Barnard discussed priorities for a site, including location, neighbors, infrastructure, traffic and cost.
The meeting's turnout -- especially by teenagers -- enthused Petersen.
"I'm overwhelmingly pleased with the number of youth here," she said. "We are going to listen to them."
Harner and her husband, Warren, said they wanted to see more activities for youths. When Warren Harner ran for City Council this fall, his platform included the need for teen recreation.
Lisa Harner thanked the teenagers who attended the meeting.