Child care center at Howelsen Ice Arena may be ready by summer |

Child care center at Howelsen Ice Arena may be ready by summer

Child care crisis in Steamboat Springs is dire, but may get a small boost starting this summer

The expansion at the Howelsen Ice Arena includes a 1,400-square-foot space upstairs that was designed for child care.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy photo

With the hopes of starting this summer, the City of Steamboat Springs is in the final phases of opening a child care facility at Howelsen Ice Arena.

The city is obtaining a conditional use permit to run licensed school-year and summer programs out of the upstairs area of the newly-constructed expansion at the Howelsen Ice Arena.

The City of Steamboat Springs Planning Commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit on May 12, and cited the fact that the city’s Afterschool Action program at Soda Creek Elementary filled up almost immediately when registration opened.

The license allows child care services for a maximum of 40 children ages 5-16, as permitted based on the 1,400 square feet of space. The new space was designed with child care in mind with a separate back entrance so existing users of the ice rink won’t be disturbed.

Perhaps the final hurdle for the project was getting permission from the city to go ahead without building a fenced-in play area near the building, as is required in the city’s development code. The Colorado state code, however, does permit school-age facilities to operate without a fenced-in playground as long as a play area or park is adjacent and accessible. Because there are two nearby play areas, Brooklyn Park and the Howelsen Beach Playground, city staff recommended proceeding without building a fenced-in space as long as staffing was sufficient to monitor the children when outside.

Furnishing for the new child care space was funded by a $23,288 Rural Economic Development Initiative Grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The new space at the Howelsen Ice Arena is designated as multi-use and will be available to the public during the hours it’s not being used by the city’s child care programs.

During the school year, the upstairs space is planned to be used after school for elementary and middle school students, typically Monday to Thursday from 3-5:45 p.m., while certain Friday nights will be used for the Kids Night Out program from 6-9 p.m.

A blueprint of the upstairs area of the Howelsen Ice Rink expansion, with the area licensed to the city for child care programs marked in blue.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy photo

This new space would also be used for summer camp programs, and according to the project’s permit application will mostly host the “adventurers group” of kindergarten-aged children.

The city currently runs summer camp programs out of Soda Creek Elementary, but that site is at capacity and will continue to host groups of children from grades 1-5. All summer camp groups run from 8 a.m.- 5:30 p.m and typically go for nine weeks starting a week after school lets out until the Thursday/Friday before the last week of summer break.

The new space has long been planned as a replacement for the igloo building near Howelsen, which was a city-owned modular building constructed in 1980 that provided child care.

In 2018, the city closed down the igloo building and controversy over a replacement project ensued.

The new expansion to the Howelsen Ice Arena includes dedicated parking spaces and a rear entrance meant to prevent disruptions with users of the ice rink on the lower level.
City of Steamboat Springs/Courtesy photo

“(The igloo building) was demolished several years ago in anticipation for being replaced and then the replacement didn’t happen,” said Alexis Wolf, the city’s recreation manager who has been working toward obtaining the use permit for the city.

The planned 2,500-square-foot modular facility that was originally meant to replace the igloo building was struck down by city council in 2017, as its price tag started approaching $1 million. City council members reversed course after receiving a number of letters from the community saying the cost was too much.

Since then, child care services have been lacking in Steamboat, both in the public and private sectors, while sales tax revenue has sharply risen and has provided the city with a substantial surplus. Construction costs, meanwhile, have gone up drastically. It’s likely that in order to construct that same facility in 2022 it would cost much more than $1 million.

“I’m against government building housing and government building child care centers and competing against the market,” said Robert Rusher Jr. of the planning commission, who approved the permit.

“If private industry is not gonna step up and do it, I’m for it.” Rusher Jr. said.

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