Community center efforts progress


— Several months ago, the Steamboat Springs City Council promised users of the Steamboat Springs Community Center that they would have a replacement center before the old one was torn down.

The council is moving forward with that promise. While work progresses on a replacement community center, a separate movement is promoting a different type of center -- an indoor recreation facility. To add to the possibilities, City Council members also have discussed the desire for a teen center, which may be part of the other potential facilities.

There appears to be little doubt that the community center issue will be resolved first --artly because of the promise council members made to senior citizens and other users of the Steamboat Springs Community Center, which will be torn down to make room to expand Bud Werner Memorial Library.

Council President Ken Brenner emphasized that point last week during the council's most recent meeting. Research and planning for a recreation center would be different from preparation for a community center, he said, and he wanted to know what the community center would require.

"The community center's really our focus right now," he said.

Meeting spots

The community center issue gained urgency in November, when voters approved funding mechanisms for the expansion of the library. The community center will be razed to make room for that expansion.

The City Council, which changed membership after the November election, faces living up to a commitment made several months ago by previous council members, who told community center users that the center would be replaced before the old one is torn down.

Before work on a new community center can begin, city officials must select a site. Last week, the council solidified its interest in three sites: the Steamboat Springs School District's Human Services Center, the Stock Bridge Transit Center and Memorial Park near the ski mountain.

The council also agreed last week to spend about $20,000 for an architect to conduct speedy building assessments of the George P. Sauer Human Services Center and site assessments of the other locations.

Each site already has been discussed during previous council meetings.

Brenner was the first to mention the Memorial Park site. After a tour of Aspen's center, which has a "campus" concept because it is close to schools, Brenner said he wanted a site that had a similar concept, and he saw potential in Memorial Park.

Council member Towny Anderson has been a proponent of using the Human Services Center, even if it is only a temporary site for community meetings.

But using the Human Services Center would require the cooperation of the school district. The city and the district have signed agreements to consider the site for a possible community center.

The Stock Bridge site, supported by council member Paul Strong, could be a convenient solution to the demand for both a community and recreation center. The community center could be built first, Strong said, and the recreation center could be added later.

Susan Petersen, the city's recreation supervisor, said Friday that she does not think the Stock Bridge site is ideal for a recreation center because it is too small. The city could build "up" and add more stories, she said, but that would be costly.

The Stock Bridge site is the favorite of Shelley Orrell, program director for the Routt County Council on Aging, an organization that uses the community center for meals and other programs for senior citizens. The organization is considered one of the two primary users of the community center; the other is the American Legion.

"The Stock Bridge site is on the Steamboat Springs Transit route, and there's plenty of parking," Orrell said. "I think it could be built and still preserve the events that happen at the community center here that make Steamboat Springs a community," such as free holiday dinners, she said.

Orrell said she could not comment about the Memorial Park site because she didn't have enough information about it. She is not opposed to using the Human Services Center, which is on Seventh Street, but she doesn't consider it as feasible as the Stock Bridge site.

"I like the Seventh Street site for location," Orrell said, but "unless they were to tear down the building and start over, I don't see us blending in, especially when the city does not own that property."

The library additions will not provide sufficient space or amenities to serve as a community center, Brenner said last week.

Moving forward

The council will hear an update about the community center Tuesday. On Feb. 21, it will hear a separate report about the potential recreation center.

The report, which will be presented by Ballard King & Associates, will address programming needs and the space requirements to meet those needs. The consultant also will identify three or four possible sites, which Petersen said she was not ready to identify.

The consultant's report includes information gathered through public comment periods during meetings, focus groups and online communication.

After hearing the presentation, the council will choose whether to hire someone to create conceptual drawings and cost estimates for the potential recreation center sites, Petersen said.

"It will open the door for the council to determine whether to take the next step," she said.

The push for a recreation center is likely to progress if residents continue to support it, Petersen said.

"We need a citizen group to form and get behind this, or it will most likely fizzle," she said. An effort to build a recreation center seven years ago did not move forward because of that reason, she said.

It's up to the council to decide how to act on the center debates. The Parks and Recreation Commission and consultants think that consolidating the facilities may be the answer, Petersen said. She said the consultants will stress that community uses are best housed in one facility.

"We are defaulting to the expert's recommendation," she said. "It is useful for the community to wait, prioritize and find the best solution."

What about the teens?

A third part of the facility debate is a teen center -- something that multiple council members have said is necessary.

The city has looked into using current facilities to house a teen center. Two modular buildings at Haymaker Golf Course were to be considered for such a use, but teens and other community members did not think the buildings were the best choice, Petersen said.

"We're hearing from the community that they want long-term, permanent solutions to youth and teen programming needs," Petersen said. The council voted last week to sell the buildings to a company in Bozeman, Mont.

Orrell said seniors also need long-lasting facilities.

"We don't want to be displaced and have somebody say, 'Well, we'll work on a permanent location' and then all of a sudden have nothing," Orrell said.

"This is very, very important to us."

--To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail


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