The centers of attention

Rec center backers urge foresight in community center planning

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Backers of a $25 million rec center and indoor pool are urging the Steamboat Springs City Council to keep them in mind when they consider the site for a new community center next week.

"What we want them to reconsider is simply the site location," Michelle Petix said. "It might seem dumb right now to choose a site that is bigger than what's needed (for the community center), but it could look wise in 20 years."

Members of Citizens for a Community Recreation Center are asking supporters to pack Centennial Hall for Tuesday's City Council meeting. They hope the council will abandon three alternative sites for the community center in favor of one that would be large enough for a rec center, as well. About 40 people attended a forum on the subject at Olympian Hall on Tuesday night.

The recreation center and the community center are different subjects, but a number of residents see a link between the two. Recreation center backers are concerned that building a stand-alone community center for senior citizens would delay a rec center and leave them treading water indefinitely.

Consultants studying a rec center envision it could be built in three phases.

If all three phases were built, they might include space for youth programs, a gymnasium, an indoor swimming pool and a fieldhouse. Rec center backers are mindful that the City Council is being asked to approve and financially support an expansion of the nonprofit Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center to include an indoor pool.

Those in attendance at last night's meeting suggested it might be desirable to meet the needs of seniors in a new rec center.

"We would like to see seniors incorporated into our programs more, and in a multi-generational facility," City Recreation Supervisor Susan Petersen confirmed.

The previous City Council committed to replacing the existing community center. It houses the meal program offered to seniors by the Routt County Council on Aging, as well as meetings of the American Legion. It is scheduled for demolition to make way for the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library. The library district is contributing $500,000 to the cost of the new community center.

"We feel the community center needs to be where the rec center is going to be," Citizens for a Community Recreation Center organizer Judy Zetzman said. "What we want is to have City Council stop for a moment and say, 'Let's put it in a place where we can grow as a community.'"

The city has hired consultants to conduct a detailed feasibility study of a new recreation center and to evaluate three sites for the new community center. However, the sites being considered for the smaller community center are different from the potential sites that have been identified for a 100,000-square-foot rec center.

The sites being considered for the community center include the Stock Bridge Transit Center, the Human Services Center on Seventh Street, and Memorial Park.

Potential sites for the rec center include the city's undeveloped park off Hilltop Parkway, Ski Town Park and property owned by the Steamboat Springs School District west of the city. Tentative site plans for the Hilltop site (also known as Curci Turner) have been drawn.

Consultant Ballard King anticipates the rec center could be built in three phases, with the teen and youth centers, gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms comprising the first phase of 43,000 square feet for about $9.6 million.

Phase 2 could add an indoor swimming pool for about $9.6 million. A third phase could include a fieldhouse, climbing wall and racquetball courts for about $7.5 million.

Petersen said city parks and recreation staff members have guided the research into the feasibility study on the rec center but that it is time for them to bow out of the political process.

"Parks and Recreation staff is ready to end our involvement and turn it over to the citizens," she said. "This needs to be a citizen-led initiative. It's really up to the citizens to tell City Council what needs to be done."

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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