Down to Ski Town, Howelsen

Council picks rec finalists; still chance for Old Town pools



Ginny Faulkner, 9, from left, Kelsey Peters, 11, and Nick Bond, 10, enjoy a snack of fresh-sliced watermelon behind Howelsen Lodge on Tuesday. The kids are participants in the After-School Action program, which is put on by the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department. Increased facilities for local youths is driving proposals for a new recreation center in Steamboat Springs.

A 'cooler' igloo?

Officials with the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department said Tuesday that the city's after-school programs will be held in Howelsen Lodge until the end of the school year. The move allows possible city-funded remodels to be considered for the after-school programs' permanent site, a cramped facility behind Howelsen Ice Arena known as "The Igloo."

The lodge at Howelsen Hill offers two large rooms and ample space for outdoor activities.

"It's a space that we use during the summertime, and it's a licensed space - we're certainly very familiar with doing programming out of there," youth program coordinator Jennifer Travis said.

The city's after-school programs currently serve 40 to 50 children in kindergarten through fifth grade.

— And then there were two.

Ski Town Fields and Howelsen Hill are the two sites that will be considered for a new recreation center in Steamboat Springs, according to statements made by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night. The council's decision came after a consultant-led presentation of site analyses and cost projections for various recreation options, which was followed by extensive public comment at a crowded meeting in Centennial Hall.

The decision all but rules out construction of recreation facilities at Rita Valentine Park, a site off Anglers Drive that drew strong protests from neighboring homeowners seeking to preserve the land as open space. Construction of a multi-purpose gymnasium at Strawberry Park Elementary School also was discarded.

But consultant Chuck Musgrave, of the Denver firm Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, noted several council members were not ready to abandon the idea of adding aquatic features - such as a competitive pool, diving well or leisure pool - to the Old Town Hot Springs site in downtown Steamboat.

"We need to have more conversations with Old Town Hot Springs," Musgrave said. "The question is whether water at Old Town is still feasible - I don't think that's eliminated yet."

While the downtown site has prohibitive cost issues and room only for aquatics, Howelsen Hill and Ski Town Fields offer lower costs along with multiple planning options and room for expansion.

The consultants have recommended the Ski Town Fields site, adjacent to the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs on Pine Grove Road, as their top choice for a new recreation center, with Howelsen Hill also a candidate despite traffic concerns.

Musgrave has said building at Ski Town Fields would cost at least $15.7 million, with a base-level price of $22 million at Howelsen.

The City Council is divided between the two sites.

Council President Pro-tem Steve Ivancie joined Councilmen Paul Strong and Loui Antonucci in strongly favoring Ski Town Fields.

"It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned," Ivancie said, citing the site's access to U.S. Highway 40, flat topography, ample size and proximity to the tennis facility.

Strong called Ski Town Fields "the only reasonable site to consider."

Councilwoman Karen Post disagreed, saying she is unsure about the need of a "big box" recreation center that could be a towering structure at the entrance to Steamboat Springs.

"I can't imagine what the size of this is going to look like," Post said.

Post also noted local teens "hang out" at Howelsen Hill and along the Yampa River downtown, making a recreation center at Howelsen a better option.

"That's already the place where teens congregate - they're there all the time," she said.

Councilman Towny Anderson compared consideration of Ski Town to the process that led to building the new Routt County Justice Center west of downtown on U.S. 40.

"We always go outside of town, because it's easier to build there," Anderson said. "But I think we miss opportunities. There's an opportunity to be extremely creative at Howelsen Hill."

Anderson also questioned whether teens would go to a recreation center at Ski Town Fields, a site he said is farther away from local schools and "isolated from all the things that attract teens."

"There are a lot of locals who live on the mountain, too," Strong countered.

Council President Susan Dellinger said she is "not sold on consolidation yet," and requested further study about building separate, smaller recreation facilities at different locations.

Recreation facilities at Howelsen could be built either over two baseball fields on the west side of the park or behind Howelsen Ice Arena to the east.

Members of the public will soon have a chance to comment on the best plan for improving local recreation facilities.

The council agreed to move forward with creating a public survey, which Musgrave said will hopefully be ready, if not conducted, by June 1.

"We heard very clearly that costs have to be clear in that survey," Musgrave said.

Adding multiple aquatic features to a recreation center at either Ski Town or Howelsen could increase the cost by as much as $19.6 million, according to the consultants. Adding sports and fitness equipment could cost an additional $665,000 to $8.1 million.

Those numbers mean a full-sized recreation center with numerous amenities at either location could cost more than $40 million.

"I have some skepticism that the community is willing to support a project as large as we need," Strong said, voicing support for funding through a property tax. "I think it would be very difficult to finance this with a sales tax."

A recreation center proposal could appear on the ballot in November.


secretshopper 9 years, 10 months ago

It was very informative to go to this meeting last night. I want to thank Mike Lawrence for clarifing the costs of a new rec center. 30-40 million dollars.

I hope that the new survey will honestly and accurately portray the cost of this stucture, so not to trick voters into a rec center. Futhermore, the language on the ballot needs to be clearly worded so people can accurately understand just how much money it takes to build (not to mention sustain!) such a facility, with no financial surprises to come up after the vote (if it passes).

I fear with such change going on in Steamboat Springs that we become caught up in all the hype.

There is so much that Steamboat Springs has to offer my family for recreation (too much to list) and all I hear is "we need". "We need" to be fiscally responsible and spend our tax dollars on things like education, affordable housing, the environment, and creative ways to entice and retain quality employees. Those are real "needs." 30-40 MILLION DOLLARS for a new rec center.


beentheredonethat 9 years, 10 months ago

steamboat springs does not need, nor can it afford to build AND maintain a large recreational center.


JQPUBLIC 9 years, 10 months ago

beenthere.... they said they would market it to the tourists to help pay for it, which means once built the locals will be out in the cold again, just another tourist attraction. All this hype about being for the locals reminds me of when denver wanted new stadiums... can the average citizen get tickets to sporting events.. the few seats that are sold to the general public, are they decent seats... if you could get seats could you afford to take your family... BUT they got the public to pay for the stadium didn't they. President Susan Dellinger said she is "not sold on consolidation yet," and requested further study.... maybe they will just study it to death and the locals won't have to pay for another tourist trap.


Socrates 9 years, 10 months ago

Where are all of these family friendly recreation opportunities? What are our middle schoolers and high schoolers supposed to be doing after school while their parents are working ? What about our youth who cannot afford Winter Sports Club?
What about our youth who are neither athletically inclined or talented? What about the drug and alcohol problem we have in our high school and community? A community recreation center could provide a real benefit to both families and employers by helping to provide a safe and supervised space for the children or our workers..


Jon Casson 9 years, 10 months ago

beenthere or JQ-

Were either of you at the meeting last night? Did either of you participate in any of the public discussions? Do either of you sit on any of the committees that participated in the process?

Not accusing, just curious....


secretshopper 9 years, 10 months ago

Socrates, here are some of the recreational opertunities in Steamboat that my family enjoys:

Old Town Hot Springs Howelson Hill's biking/ski trails and the Apline slide Music together classes Strawberry Hot Springs Excel Gymnastics center Steamboat Ski Area-biking/hiking/skiing The Yampa River The Core Trail Numerous outdoor parks Steamboat Mountain Theater 2 movie theaters Strings on the Mountain Free concerts thoughtout high seasons The skate park-which is looking at the new rec center as a possible location to build new Tons of biking/hiking trails throughout Routt and Steamboat

You mentioned your family doesn't particapate in Winter Sports Club (mine doesn't either) but a family membership at the new rec center won't be cheap, so it's not the cure all for kids. It's not only going to cost more then any other project yet encountered, it will lose money every year. Drugs and alcohol will always be around, a new rec center won't help with that problem. It's our job to look out for our own kids, not a rec center.

This town already has problems with getting and retaining employees with the many facilities now. Just look at ski corp who import employees from other counties because they say they need them.

We have choices here (MUCH more then where I grew up). Just open your eyes and take advantage of what we have. Any teenager who says there is nothing to do here is just being a teenager. What's wrong with getting a job for a little extra money and it's a safe, supervised place to be?


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