Teen center planning on hold | SteamboatToday.com

Teen center planning on hold

Council embraces concept of building, delays because of funds

— The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night embraced the concept of expanding the ice rink lobby to accommodate an interim youth and teen center. However, all but one member of council agreed it would be wise to delay $87,500 in already budgeted funding for detailed planning work until they comb through the city’s five-year capital improvement plan.

“I think this is great. I’d love to see it built,” Council President Loui Antonucci said. “But we have a (five-year capital improvement plan) that was developed before this whole (economic) crash. Our management team is about to begin scrubbing the CIP. I’d hate to fund the planning if it’s not even going to make it in the five-year CIP. It’s still money in the bank we may need in the coming months.”

Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson told council that the funding would cover the expense of refining the plans to the point that they could be taken through the city’s own development permit process. City Council’s general approval of the conceptual plans it saw this week does not signify a decision has been taken to build the estimated $4 million-plus project.

Councilman Jon Quinn, who favored approving the funding without the delay, was the only one of the seven council members who did not indicate his approval for waiting after an informal vote.

Stephen Moore of Steamboat Engineering and Architectural Design, who worked on the original ice rink project, was clear that the expansion plan would be undertaken in a way that ultimately would serve its originally planned function at the ice rink. In the meantime, he said the space is adaptable to afford many of the activities the teens desire on an interim basis..

“Only a portion of the lobby was built in 2002 because we ran out of money,” Moore said. The 1,500-square-foot main floor addition would provide ample space for pool and ping pong tables, a flat-screen TV and cafe-style seating, Moore said. A new second story on top of the existing roof would provide space for working on art projects or studying. It also could be used as a flexible public space similar to Olympian Hall, where parents could sign youngsters up for sports leagues. There also would be offices for staff supporting youth recreation programs.

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Ultimately, when converted to ice rink functions, it would allow creation of two large hockey locker rooms.

The council identified providing some form of teen center as a high priority during a Dec. 5, 2007, retreat. It was held in the wake of the failure of a bond issue that would have enabled building a large municipal recreation center.

City Recreation Supervisor Susan Petersen told council that after 17 years of working with teens and youths, she has a clear idea of what they want. First, they want an informal space that isn’t referred to as a teen center.

“The teens have really spoken,” Petersen said. “I’ve heard them say they want a place to hang out, to call their own – kind of their home base.”

Bill Jameson stood up during the public comment portion of the discussion and rejected the notion that the proposal was really for a teen center.

“Call it what it is,” Jameson said. “They’ve dressed this up as a teen center, but it’s not a teen center. It’s basically an expansion of the ice rink. Don’t use a teen space as justification for a $4 million or $5 million expansion of the rink, and that’s minus the second ice sheet.”

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Curtis Church told council he thought Jameson was overlooking the advantage of providing an interim teen space while completing a portion of the original ice arena plan that could set the stage for future growth.

Petersen added that the existing presence of adult supervision in the ice arena from early morning until late evening provides staffing efficiencies. More efficiencies are to be found she said, in the fact that teens already gather at the rink to watch siblings’ and friends’ games.

Antonucci concluded that council can take one or two months to revisit its five-year capital plan without harming the tentative plans for an interim teen center.

– To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com