Results of a study into a possible community recreation center underscore our longstanding position that the city should give voters the chance to decide on an all-encompassing facility at a single site easily accessible by tourists.
After years of discussion and input from various interest groups failed to produce consensus, the city of Steamboat Springs hired consultants Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver and Greenplay LLC of Broomfield to work together on developing recommendations. The consultants talked to City Council members, city staff, representatives of the Old Town Hot Springs, parents who support an indoor swimming facility and others. The consultants researched multiple sites, including the possibility of putting different recreational amenities at different locations.
Last week, the consultants presented what they felt was the community's best option - a full-scale facility at the present site of Ski Town Fields, a softball and soccer field complex adjacent to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
"That's the area that I think has the most potential," said Chuck Musgrave of Barker Rinker Seacat. Musgrave said the site on Pine Grove Road offers "great access" from U.S. Highway 40, potential shared parking with the Tennis Center and ample room for a facility that could include a youth and teen center, indoor pool, running track and climbing wall.
We would add a leisure pool, gymnasium with multiple basketball courts, exercise equipment and a fieldhouse to the list of needs. Examples of such facilities exist in Durango, Summit County, Glenwood Springs and Gypsum.
Ski Town Fields, in our estimation, is the right site. It fits nicely with current uses and complements the Tennis Center. It's near an area of new growth that ultimately is expected to include a gondola to the base of the ski area. It is large enough to include the kind of facility that is needed.
Tourist use of any recreation center will be a key component in offsetting operational costs; therefore, the facility has to be in a site that maximizes such use. Ski Town Fields accomplishes that.
Other sites - the Old Town Hot Springs, Howelsen, Rita Valentine Park and school campuses - had substantial negatives in terms of location, costs, parking and traffic. And the consultants discovered that attempting to take a piece-meal approach to recreation facilities is cost-prohibitive and inefficient.
In the past, the recreation center issue has gotten mired in debates among different entities. Compromises among the City Council, the Old Town Hot Springs, community recreation center advocates and the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services staff have been difficult to come by.
The City Council has been reluctant to embrace a full-scale community recreation center out of a desire to protect the historic Old Town Hot Springs, concerns about costs and worries that a large-scale center is similar to "big-box" retail. But each time the council has hired consultants or sought public input, a full-scale center at a single site is what emerges.
The site has been identified, as have the amenities. The next step is for the city to develop a plan and put it before voters. The City Council can and should start that ball rolling when it meets with the consultants on Tuesday.