Consultants dive in

Firm begins work on recreation center issues; '07 ballot possible

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Bill Auer swims laps through the fog in the outdoor lap pool Thursday at the Old Town Hot Springs. Recreation consultants hired by the city met with City Council members, citizen groups and members of the local media Thursday to discuss recreation facility needs.

— Consultants hired to study local recreation services brought optimism, experience and open ears to Steamboat Springs on Thursday.

Chris Dropinski from Greenplay, LLC, of Broomfield and Chuck Musgrave from Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver spent the day at Centennial Hall, meeting with members of city, recreation, school district and community groups to begin a three-month process in which Dropinski and Musgrave will examine indoor recreation needs in Steamboat.

"I think they all opened up today and said they wanted to cooperate," Musgrave said about the various interest groups. "There was a lot of excitement."

The pair of consultants ultimately will prepare a report for the City Council that will recommend how to best improve local recreation services. Musgrave said, if necessary, there is "plenty of time" to propose a new recreation center to voters on the 2007 ballot.

Dropinski and Musgrave have seen such a process before.

They worked together on a recreation center for the Eagle County town of Gypsum, where voters approved a sales tax increase to fund a $12.2 million, 56,000-square-foot center in 2004. Musgrave designed the center's three buildings on one location. The campus-style facility includes a leisure pool with four swimming lanes and a waterslide, an indoor track, a community room, a gymnastics area, a lounge, a game room, and a multi-activity court that Musgrave described as a gymnasium with a synthetic floor. Helped by $3 million in funding from the West Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, the center opened its doors in December after about two years of construction.

The pair of consultants also collaborated on two recreation centers for the South Suburban Parks & Recreation District in and around Littleton. Musgrave said one of the buildings is designed for youths, while the other is designed for adults.

"They were trying to serve two different populations," Musgrave said.

Determining whether Steamboat should expand recreation services at one location, such as the Old Town Hot Springs site on Lincoln Avenue near Third Street, or build at separate locations will be a large part of the consultants' job during the next three months.

"The big (question) is a single location versus many locations," said Susan Petersen, recreation supervisor for the city's Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services. "That's a question I think everyone wants answered."

Filling gaps

Recreation debates have roiled public meetings in Steamboat for months, and several options for improving recreational opportunities - including construction of an indoor public pool - have been brought to the table.

In August, the City Council denied an attempt by a community group called Citizens for a Community Recreation Center to place an $18 million facility on the city's 2006 ballot. Since then, the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association has announced plans to renovate and possibly expand its Old Town Hot Springs facility, while the City Council has discussed moving a federal post office site adjacent to that facility and possibly sharing space with the Steamboat Springs School District. The Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services also has announced plans to renovate facilities as a short-term fix for youth programming.

Dropinski and Musgrave met with members of all those groups Thursday.

The consultants said in addition to community input and public meetings, they will use information from previous recreation consultants, feasibility studies, surveys and community plans.

"I'm not here to start over," Musgrave said. "I'm here to fill in the gaps : our job is to compile all that work and find a new direction."

Petersen said she welcomes the fresh vision brought by the consultants, who will be paid out of $250,000 in recreation planning funds the City Council placed in the city's 2007 budget.

"It's like a doctor's second opinion," Petersen said. "I can only be optimistic that this is going to be a refreshing, positive process."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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