Our View: Let the voters decide | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Let the voters decide

— We applaud the Steamboat Springs City Council’s decision last week to forward a recreation center initiative to the ballot in November.

The proposal is for a $34 million, full-scale facility to be built at Ski Town Fields near the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. This is the most logical and economical site. It’s also appropriate to put a large-scale, all-encompassing facility on the ballot.

A full-scale facility consolidated at a single site has always stood a better chance of approval than a scaled-down one that costs less or multiple facilities spread around town. Recreation center advocates have a tough battle ahead convincing voters to sign off on such an expensive center, but at least they won’t have to fight perceptions the facility does not offer enough amenities.

Details still have to be worked out, but the preliminary plans for the facility include space for youth and teen programs, an indoor playground, a double-sized gymnasium, a fitness center and aquatic features including a six-lane lap pool, diving well and leisure pool.

Some City Council members are skeptical. Council President Susan Dellinger doesn’t think the issue will pass, though she voted to put it on the ballot. Council members Towny Anderson and Karen Post advocated for keeping recreation facilities downtown, utilizing the Old Town Hot Springs and Howelsen Hill.

But all of the city’s research showed a large facility at a single site was the most practical and economical. It’s the option the city’s consultants recommended and it’s the option that got the strongest support in a citizen survey.

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As Council Member Steve Ivancie noted, Howelsen Hill simply can’t support a large-scale facility. “It would be like stuffing 10 pounds of flour in a five-pound sack,” Ivancie said.

Ski Town Fields has the room. It is the most cost efficient. And it is in a high traffic corridor just off U.S. Highway 40. That’s a critical factor in getting tourists to use the facility and thus help offset annual operation costs.

The city certainly has a far better option coming to the ballot now than it did at this time last year. The $18 million facility proposed in 2006 offered a gym, an indoor pool and a walking track, but it had no workout facilities and no leisure pool component. We argued that proposal would fail miserably had it gone to the ballot.

The current proposal certainly is not a slam dunk. A lot more needs to be known about the facility, particularly the tax implications and proposed user fees. The Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Association, which has the city’s largest fitness membership and is undergoing a major renovation of its aquatics facilities, has indicated its opposition to the facility and likely will oppose the ballot measure. And there is the segment of the voting population that’s going to say “no” based simply on the fact that the facility will require a tax increase.

But Citizens for a Community Recreation Center has embraced the proposal and is optimistic the community will get behind it. “The people want it,” said JoEllen Heydon, who chairs the group. “Let’s let CCRC (members), with all their passion, campaign for it.”

Such grassroots passion surely will be needed in the coming months. But after years of debate and analysis, at least recreation center advocates finally have a proposal worthy of getting behind.