Rec plans 'major expansion'

Old Town Hot Springs health facility could grow in the spring

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— A "major expansion" is planned for the Old Town Hot Springs recreation center, officials said Friday.

Pat Carney, director of the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association, used a brief news release to announce the intention - but not the specifics - of an expansion that has been discussed for more than a year. The announcement came just days after a community group called Citizens for a Recreation Center spoke to Steamboat Springs City Council members about an upcoming, yearlong effort to get voters to support a new public recreation center. That issue could appear on the 2007 city ballot.

The group attempted to place an $18 million recreation center on this year's ballot but fell short because of planning limitations.

On Tuesday night, council member Towny Anderson urged city officials and the community group "to explore different methods" of meeting recreation needs in Steamboat rather than building an entirely new center that could drain city funds.

Friday's SSHRA announcement demonstrates a possible alternative.

"For the first time in 15 years, the SSHRA is planning a major expansion of its facilities to meet the growing needs of the Yampa Valley for water and fitness recreational opportunities, for our residents as well as our visitors," Carney wrote. "The (Old Town Hot Springs) board has been planning for this expansion for two years, with the assistance of professionals in recreational facilities architecture, water facilities and business planners."

Bud Romberg, president of the Old Town Hot Springs Board of Directors, elaborated on expansion plans Friday.

"There are some preliminary plans at this point," Romberg said. "We've been talking about an expansion of the hot water side of the pool, and a possible expansion of the fitness center over the parking lot."

Romberg said the expansion likely will be privately funded through local fundraising efforts. He said $8 million is "in the range" of potential costs, and an indoor pool could be part of future plans for the site at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue.

"We've said to the city that we'd be happy to partner with them with respect to a pool, if it were on the post office site," Romberg said, referring to the U.S. Post Office branch adjacent to the Old Town Hot Springs.

Romberg said he has not yet received a response from city officials regarding future use of the post office site, an idea he said is based only on a "rumor going around" that the post office could move.

Carney addressed the possibility of collaboration between an expanded Old Town Hot Springs and a new recreation center.

"The board has been working closely with the city on the planning so that services are not duplicated with any potential city recreational facility," Carney wrote.

In its presentation to the council Tuesday night, Citizens for a Recreation Center stressed the idea of collaboration. The group has formed several subcommittees, one of which will work with Romberg's board "to determine the potential for a joint membership and memorandum of understanding ... to ensure future success of both facilities."

The group is proposing a new recreation center, possibly on a 37-acre site at Rita Valentine Park, between Anglers Drive and Hilltop Parkway.

Previous proposals for the new center have included space for youth after-school programs, an elevated walking track and an indoor swimming pool with a diving well.

Romberg said Tuesday that collaboration should be approached with caution.

"We are very concerned about anything that would split usage," he told the City Council. "To sacrifice what has been there for 70 years is unacceptable to us."

Carney said SSHRA has been hosting a series of meetings with community members to gather input and guide expansion planning.

"We've been bringing some people in and asking for their feedback," Romberg said.

Romberg said the meetings likely will conclude Dec. 8, after which a presentation of expansion plans will be prepared for the public.

Romberg said the board would like to begin the expansion in the spring.

"We would like to do that, because the time to work on the hot water is the time when it is being used the least, which is in the warm months," Romberg said. "We would like to get started in the spring and finish in the fall."

On Tuesday, City Council President Pro-tem Susan Dellinger urged patience with all aspects of recreation center planning.

"I'm not worried about the timelines," Dellinger said. "We just need to do this right."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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