The city of Steamboat Springs' decision to bring in new consultants to address the city's indoor recreation needs was the right move - officials need better information about what residents want.
Now, we would challenge the groups with a vested interest in the process to listen to what the consultants produce. If those involved - the City Council in particular - cannot let go of preconceived ideas, then the consultants' work will be a waste of time and money.
Chris Dropinski from Greenplay, LLC of Broomfield and Chuck Musgrave from Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver spent a day last week at Centennial Hall, meeting with various recreation stakeholders. Those included Citizens for a Community Recreation Center, the Steamboat Springs School District, Parks and Recreation Department staff and the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association.
This is not the first consultant to wade into Steamboat's recreation waters. Ballard King and Associates previously produced a three-phase recreation center plan for the city. The new consultants say their goal is to "fill the gaps" in the Ballard King plan.
There have been many developments in the past year on the recreation front. Some of them:
- Parents of youth swimmers formed an advocacy group called SPARCs - Steamboat Parents for an Aquatic Recreation Center - to push for a new recreation center that includes indoor swimming.
- The Health and Recreation Association, fearing that a new center would hurt its viability, offered an expansion plan that city planners rejected. That plan was modified into an $8 million, two-phase expansion and remodel that is to begin this year.
- The council twice asked advocates for a new recreation center and the Health and Recreation Association to work out differences. The mediation produced an $18 million proposal that included indoor swimming and a gym but no fitness equipment and no leisure pool component. The plan was scrapped.
- The City Council rejected the suggestion of building a community center at a site where it could be the foundation of a new recreation center. Instead, the council moved forward with a $3 million, limited-use community center at the Stock Bridge Multi-Modal Transit Center, where expansion is not feasible.
- The Steamboat Springs School District and the City Council agreed to work together on plans to put the city's after-school program at one of the elementary schools.
- Finally, the council began exploring the purchase of the Post Office site adjacent to the Old Town Hot Springs, presumably to aid the Health and Recreation Association's expansion plans.
In the end, groups spent the past year competing, rather than collaborating, on recreation center plans.
The challenge for the new consultants is to foster such collaboration even as some of the groups - Health and Recreation, for example - pursue their own options.
The current consultants worked on a recreation center for Gypsum, where voters approved a sales tax increase to fund a $12.2 million, 56,000-square-foot center in 2004. That center included a gym, a track, an indoor pool with leisure components, a community center and climbing walls, among other amenities.
We believe the consultants will find that Steamboat Springs residents are ready to support a similar facility, if it is built in the right location, offers the right amenities and is financially feasible. If that proves to be the case, we hope the City Council, which thus far has shown little enthusiasm for a new center, will be willing to put such a plan before voters.