Our View: Continue to explore rec center

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Many questions remain about when, where, how and even if some configuration of organizations should build a recreation center in Steamboat Springs.

Several things are clear after a community meeting Thursday that was meant to get a planning process back under way after a pause of about six years.

It was not a proper statistical sample, of course, but the sheer number of people -- easily more than 100 -- who turned up for the noon meeting on a workday says a lot about the depth of interest in the project.

The crowd's composition says something about the breadth. There were mothers with toddlers, hardcore amateur athletes, gym junkies, representatives of youth sports clubs, people interested in the performing arts and an impressive number of teens.

Ken Ballard, president of the recreation facility-planning firm Ballard King & Associates, polled the audience for ideas and got a very long and diverse list.

People want a center that can accommodate a band hall, a fieldhouse, an indoor playground, a well-appointed gym, a climbing wall, swimming pools -- both lap and leisure -- an indoor running track, a movie theater, a skating rink, a rink for in-line hockey, a coffee bar and restaurant, arcade games, a dance floor with a DJ for teens, basketball courts, laser tag, a performing arts center, a velodrome, pingpong tables, meeting rooms and a commercial kitchen.

One wag quietly joked that the plan should be to build walls around and a roof over the entire city. Humor aside, the remark hints at the challenge that finding and affording a suitable site might pose.

The list needs to be culled and functions consolidated, obviously, but it shows the many people who want a recreation center want one that delivers a lot.

A key question to be answered as the process continues is which organization or coalition should oversee the project and manage the facility.

Also clear from the meeting was that the people and groups interested in a recreation center are using facilities all over town -- some belonging to the school district, some to the non-profit Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association, some to the city and county and some to churches, sports clubs and businesses. There's logic in including as many of those interests as manageable in planning a facility.

It's also logical to consider a joint effort among such groups as the city, county, the Health and Recreation Association and the school district that might share a role in paying for a center.

Another option broached during the meeting was creation of a recreation district with the ability to levy taxes of its own to fund the facility.

A big question, perhaps the question, is how much people will be willing to spend. When the process reaches that point, it will become more apparent just how well Thursday's crowd represents the larger population that would assume financial responsibility for the center.

But even this early in the game, it's clear that a lot of people want better facilities than exist; they want them all in one spot so the whole family can enjoy them at the same time; and they want variety, versatility and quality.

If planners can deliver those things, it seems likely people here will find a way to pay the bills.

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