Our View: Vote ‘yes’ for rec center | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Vote ‘yes’ for rec center

Steamboat Springs — Referendums 2B and 2C ask Steamboat Springs property owners to fund the construction and a portion of the ongoing operating and maintenance costs of a community recreation center. At an estimated cost of $34 million, the facility would be the most expensive taxpayer-funded initiative in the city's history. — Referendums 2B and 2C ask Steamboat Springs property owners to fund the construction and a portion of the ongoing operating and maintenance costs of a community recreation center. At an estimated cost of $34 million, the facility would be the most expensive taxpayer-funded initiative in the city's history.

— Referendums 2B and 2C ask Steamboat Springs property owners to fund the construction and a portion of the ongoing operating and maintenance costs of a community recreation center. At an estimated cost of $34 million, the facility would be the most expensive taxpayer-funded initiative in the city’s history.

But the rec center also would provide an amenity we believe residents have wanted for many years. In addition to providing much-needed space for youths and teens, the facility would offer indoor aquatics, meeting and party rooms, multi-use gymnasiums and an expansive fitness center, among other features.

The proposed recreation center is the result of years of studies and planning, and despite the initial sticker shock, it will cost the average residential taxpayer less than he or she might think. Furthermore, that payment is likely to decrease with every passing year.

We don’t think the desire for a community recreation center is going away, and such a facility won’t get any cheaper in the future. Therefore, we urge voters to approve Referendums 2B and 2C.

It’s worth reviewing how we arrived at the rec center ballot initiatives.

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For almost 10 years, the city and various interest groups have studied the possibility of a community recreation center. Those discussions often faded after failures to reach consensus about what the facility should include and where it should be located. More recently the city hired consultants Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver and Greenplay LLC of Broomfield to work together on developing recommendations for a recreation center. The consultants talked to City Council members, city staff, representatives of 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.

They eventually recommended 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.

We agree that Ski Town Fields is the right site, particularly because its proximity to the ski mountain and base area lodging means it can easily be accessed by the tourists who will help offset the center’s operating costs.

We also believe the proposed recreation center includes the right mix of amenities. The facility would include more than 5,000 square feet of space for youths and teens, thereby eliminating the need for the city to continue to house its youth programs in the outdated, space-restricted “Igloo” on Howelsen Parkway. A community survey identified youth and teen facilities as the No. 1 priority in a community recreation center.

As previously mentioned, the rec center also would include an indoor lap pool, leisure pool and diving well, an indoor walking/running track, a 5,000-square-foot fitness center with exercise equipment, an indoor playground, a double-size gymnasium, office space, and room for future additions. An outdoor skate park would be adjacent to the rec center and privately funded.

With a $34 million price tag and annual operation and maintenance expenses expected to total another $1.5 million, the facility is, understandably, a tough sell for many voters – especially given the city’s costly record with recent construction projects.

We encourage city officials and contractors to keep recreation center costs at, or below, advertised levels.

The combined mill levies will cost the owner of a $500,000 home less than $200 a year, and that tax burden will almost certainly decrease with each passing year as residential growth continues within city limits. The possible future annexation of Steamboat 700 and other areas could further reduce individual tax payments. Second-home owners will take on a substantial portion of the residential tax burden for the recreation center.

The user fee schedule for the rec center has been staggered to favor the city residents who are funding its construction. Higher rates will be charged to non-city residents and tourists, helping to offset any perceived inequity in the tax base. And because the facility would be funded by a property tax, there should be no impact on the city’s ability to fund the services it provides through sales tax revenues.

This November, we urge voters to approve a facility that stands to benefit all community members for decades to come.

Vote “yes” on Referendums 2B and 2C.