Hot Springs criticism: 'Too much Disneyland'

Planners debate Hot Springs' waterslides, $3.5M renovations


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Jaclyn Wertz, 5, gets a swim lesson from Sara Barry, right, at the Old Town Hot Springs on Wednesday.

A pair of new waterslides proposed for the Old Town Hot Springs would be clearly visible from Lincoln Avenue.

Too visible, members of the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission said Thursday night.

Commissioners Dick Curtis and Steve Lewis strongly opposed the waterslides, which are a cornerstone of the $3.5 million renovations planned for the hot pool area at the Old Town Hot Springs facility, at a Third Street and Lincoln Avenue location commonly referred to as "the entrance to downtown." The Planning Commission recommended approval of the renovations with a 4-2 vote, but whether the waterslides mesh with Steamboat Springs' "community character" caused a lengthy debate, which initially had the commission deadlocked and made it unclear whether the Steamboat Springs City Council will give final approval to the renovations April 3.

The pair of new waterslides, colored two shades of gray, would descend from a 41-foot tower built onto the east end of the Hot Springs building. The current slide was built in 1981 and is set into a hillside, making the big, green tube barely noticeable to people driving past the building in either direction on Lincoln Avenue.

Andrew Barnard of the Denver architectural firm Sink Combs Dethlefs provided the Planning Commission with a rendering of the new waterslides Thursday. In an image that superimposes the waterslides and tower onto the Hot Springs building, showing a view from westbound Lincoln Avenue, a significant portion of the curving slides can clearly be seen.

"It's very visible, and I'm sure it will attract a lot of people, but I'm not sure how good it will be for F.M. Light (& Sons) and Allen's," Lewis said, citing retail stores that exemplify Steamboat's ranching heritage. "This is a little bit too much of Disneyland at the entrance to our town."

"I truly have a problem with this proposal," added Curtis. "We're changing the current natural feel to an amusement park feel. This slide needs to be redesigned so it's less visually intrusive from Lincoln Avenue."

The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Assoc-iation is a private nonprofit organization that operates the Old Town Hot Springs. The SSHRA is not affiliated with the city of Steamboat Springs.

SSHRA Director Pat Carney told the Planning Commission the tower is positioned to provide easier access to the waterslides - and warmer access in the winter months - while allowing re-vegetation of the hillside. She also said the waterslides are a key source of income for Old Town Hot Springs.

"Why should tourists leave their condo? The answer is the waterslide," Carney said. "It's very economically important to us."

Kathi Meyer, chairwoman of the Planning Commission, agreed the new waterslides would bring "economic vitality" to downtown, and said the renderings "overstate the visual impacts."

Along with commissioners Tracy Barnett and Scott Myller, Meyer supported the renovation proposal, which would also combine several existing hot pools into a large, landscaped pool area and close the hot pools from April into November.

While commissioner Nancy Engelken initially opposed the waterslides, causing a 3-3 deadlock, Engelken changed her vote after Barnett added a condition that landscaping be implemented to help shield the waterslides from Lincoln Avenue.

But there may be little, if any, room for additional landscaping at Old Town Hot Springs.

"I have concerns that they're not going to meet that condition," said Tom Leeson, director of the city's planning department. "There is no place on this site plan to put additional landscaping."

Barnard said "some opportunities" for landscaping exist.

"We're very willing to look at the options," he said. "I think we heard loud and clear what the concerns are."

Barnard also said the new slides, slightly shorter than the current slide, have "some pretty steep sections."

"There's a little more 'thrill' to them," he said.

Carney said she did not expect the renovations' approval process to experience any delays, which would halt the project until at least next spring.

"I'm in shock," Carney said. "This will take some lobbying to the City Council."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

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Clearsky 7 years ago

When you have a business entity that is financially ahead and can offer great service without increasing fees then I'd have to say that you are doing the right thing. If a business wants to spend huge amounts of money without the benefit of increased capacity for future larger crowds then it is pure folly. The Old Town Hot Springs is a wonderful leisure pool with a few lap lanes and because of physical constraints will always be just that. This community needs indoor competition swimming and diving pools not only for the schools but also for the adults.


RouCou 7 years ago

The Glenwood Springs pool has kept the historical feel without becoming cheesy or losing the fun. I guess that's why their pool and facility is world famous. The springs in Steamboat has the same potential: No?


inmate2007 7 years ago

I'm confused - Health and Rec is turning into Disneyland and F.M. Lights is heritage?

I would think that a stock yard at the Depot would be heritage, a feed lot near by, a COOP on 12th and maybe a slaughter house or fish hatchery on Yampa. Definitely not a cow parade on the 4th, a store that sells imported goods or illusions/dreams of industries that no longer really exist here.

Just look at the interest in the beef tax verses the Community Center if you want to see what the area cares about. Most of the county residents can't name the local crop that needs apiarian culture to thrive, and I seriously doubt it's taught in the schools. Focus has changed and maybe reality should rule instead of dreams.

Face it - when you pretend to be what you ain't you are Disneyland.


Queenie 7 years ago

I find it difficult to believe that "indoor competition swimming and diving pools" are a necessity.


beentheredonethat 7 years ago

Carney said she did not expect the renovations' approval process to experience any delays, which would halt the project until at least next spring.

"I'm in shock," Carney said. "This will take some lobbying to the City Council."

How is it possible for the manager of the health center to fail to realize that changing the "skyline" with two gray pipes, at the town's entrance, just might offend people.

That organization desperately needs new leadership from the board on down.


Brian Smith 7 years ago

Worried about what the town looks like upon arriving? Anyone come from the Airport recently? I am sure the West end of town makes a great impression...


WZ 7 years ago

From what I garnered from this article, the only reason those waterslide towers are where they are situated, are so that people don't get cold on their way up to the top of the slide.

I think the invasive nature of the location of those slides is too steep a price to pay for that accommodation, especially when the immediate hillside lends itself to a ideal location.

It wouldn't take much to economically and aesthetically accommodate cold temperature challenged visitors (aka wimps - this is Steamboat, a ski resort town, in the middle of winter for crying out loud!).

Make the approach of the hillside appealing.

Of course people currently complain about walking up the hill side. That covered walkway has cold, cement steps, is quite drafty with its tongue and groove, non insulated construction and is aesthetically dull.

There are ample construction materials available to make an approach up the hillside more tolerable for the typical American wimp, and a creative mind can easily conjure up a more aesthetically appealing approach.

Talking about Disneyland, make a tropical tube walkway going up the hillside or something like that.

There's all this damn free, hot water coming from the ground. Make better use of it. There could be a low flow water fall coming down along the walkway up the hillside. In a tropical decor. In the middle of winter. Imagine that.

Heat the walkway with geothermal energy. Make it educational. I know that's being looked at.

A cubical stair case is so blaz-a and like every other cookie cutter waterslide around. You got a unique opportunity here. Work with it more!

I'm not settling. Pat, you're smart and hard corp. Dig deeper and come up with a better, less controversial, more economical design to make your/our Health and Rec Center more viable.


beentheredonethat 7 years ago

WZ - all good ideas. I hope that those responsible will heed them.


Matthew Stoddard 7 years ago

Queenie- for the kids that swim competetively, having a year-round enclosed area would be a godsend. This would allow for a better, year-round team sport that was only a summer-club back when I was on it. That was back when the slide was just being built.

To my understanding, they have some swimmers that compete year-round, but not up to the numbers of the summer swimmers. Having a place where they can hold a winter swim meet would be great. Swimming is a great sport and our kids should be offered a way to compete if they are really serious. We already lead the U.S.A in the number of winter Olympians; why not increase the possibility of summer Olympians?


OnTheBusGus 7 years ago

Disneyland? Has anyone seen the colour scheme on the Chadwick/Highmark? THAT looks like Disneyland!! I also thought that at one point it might be the new olympic sized pool since it was a huge concrete hole for so long. We definitely need a place for competitive year-round swimming and diving. We have talented kids in this town, Kielbasa is right, we might get some summer olympians too! I always thought that the city should build a water park/pool facility by Howelson for the summer. It would take some of the load off H&R and provide a great place for everyone to play and probably generate some revenue to help pay for itself. Of course it would have to be shut down in the winter, bummer.


reallocal 7 years ago

I am personally interested in pursuing many hobbies that would require facilities that aren't offered in Steamboat. That is my choice, and it should not be the perogative of the community to provide expensive facilities for every hobby that a group of people are interested in. Unfortunately, that has been the general feeling of our town's leadership (not just at the hot springs) for quite a while now. Time for something to change...


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