Down to Ski Town, Howelsen | SteamboatToday.com
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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.
Brian Ray

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.


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