Steamboat Springs More than 300 high school students in Steamboat Springs affirmed their strong desire for a gathering place to call their own in a 2009 survey released this winter. And the city’s current fiscal situation could mean that any decision to build a dedicated teen center is years in the future. However, the Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department is taking steps to ensure that when the day arrives, the design and development permits will be ready and waiting.
City planning staff is reviewing a development permit application that would allow a two-story addition to the lobby of the Howelsen Ice Arena to create a teen center.
“We want to be ready to move with construction drawings in place and an idea of what the cost would be,” Chris Wilson, director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, said Thursday.
The goal of completing a permanent teen center has at least a 15-year history in Steamboat Springs. In the 1990s, The Dock teen center was housed in a commercial building that previously contained an auto parts store near 11th and Yampa streets. That site has since been redeveloped with a mixed-use residential commercial center.
Since late last year, members of the Teen Council have been meeting with community groups, including the Parks and Recreation Commission, and they said that a teen center that feels like home is high on the list of many of their peers.
Tentative plans for taking the proposed teen center at the ice rink through the planning process surfaced in November 2008. At that time, the new building space was presented as a temporary home for a teen center with plans to devote the space to expanded locker rooms at the ice rink in the future, Wilson said. But that has since changed, he said.
The possibility of adding a second ice sheet to the rink, along with locker rooms, remains in the future, he said, but as long as the teen space is well used or the teen center already hasn’t relocated, they will continue to have the highest priority for the addition.
“Rather than looking at it as an interim use, it would be the home of an age-appropriate area for teens, and they would have that as a home until they found something different,” Wilson said. “We don’t want them to think, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll be booted out as soon as a higher and better use’” comes along.
If the teens weren’t using the space when the time came to add a second ice sheet, it would be transformed into a club-level locker room. In anticipation of that possibility, the room would be built with the plumbing and electrical lines required of a locker room. However, future ice rink expansion, including adequate locker rooms, can be accomplished without taking over the teen center space, Wilson said.
City planner Jason Peasley said plans submitted to him by Parks and Rec show a first level of 5,046 square feet, plus a second-story room of 4,539 square feet and a mezzanine of 398 square feet.
The building is being designed by architect Ed Becker, of Mountain Architecture Design Group.
Plans show that the first-floor room could contain couches, comfortable chairs and activity areas. Teens would have a new entrance of their own on the east side of the building.
Just outside the ice rink lobby entrance, Wilson said, there are plans for a concession area and casual dining tables. A new gas fireplace would make it more inviting. The concession area would be available to parents waiting for youngsters using the ice rink as well as young adults visiting the teen center. The key for teens, Wilson said, is that they would be free to linger in the dining area as long as they wished without feeling they had to get up and leave as soon as they finished a meal.
The second-story room would be designed as a flexible space, perhaps with a stage, Wilson said. When not in use by teens, the room could be reserved for events such as birthday parties or youth soccer meetings, for example. Windows in the room would overlook the ice surface.
Wilson said the ice rink location is attractive for a teen center on multiple levels.
“The teens have told us they want to be downtown so they are close to a movie theater or can go out for a gelato. The location is close to the (Howelsen) skate park, mountain biking and the core trail. That’s why we think the site works really well,” Wilson said.
There are more practical reasons, as well. The proximity to the Parks and Rec offices next door makes management of the teen center more efficient and cost-effective.
“It makes it much easier for us to program the teen space,” Wilson said. “When you realize the ice rink is often open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., it really lends itself to drop-in time — the lights are on, and the building is staffed.”
To the extent that some level of supervision of the teen center is required, there’s also an adult manager on duty at the ice rink.
Peasley said there are few issues with the permit application for the teen center addition. However, he’s working with the applicants to determine how to make a natural pedestrian crossing from the new entrance to the Yampa River Core Trail.
The trail emerges from a tunnel under the railroad tracks on the north side of Howelsen Parkway at a point just offset from a new entrance lane into the teen center on the south side of the road.
Peasley said a new, paved interior road would allow people to drop off and pick up at the teen center entrance before proceeding in their cars to an existing parking lot to the rear of the Parks and Rec offices.
Peasley wants to make certain that motorists turning left out of the parking lot have a good line of sight to the crosswalk and don’t naturally accelerate into the path of pedestrians and cyclists coming out of the nearby tunnel on their way to the teen center.
Creating the interior lane would require removing three ancillary buildings, including the building known as The Igloo.
Peasley said no public hearings have been scheduled for the teen center application.