Residents voice overwhelming support to turn Hayden school into community center

Officials asking for more input

A measure will be on the Hayden ballot for the Nov. 3 election asking residents to up sales tax by 1 cent to help pay for repairs to the old high school to turn it into a community center.
File photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — An initiative to turn the gym and auditorium of Hayden’s soon-to-be-vacant secondary school into a community center has received overwhelming support from residents.

More than 150 people have responded to an online survey asking residents if they would like to conserve the building and, if so, how they would like it to be used. 

Hayden Town Manager Mathew Mendisco said 98% of respondents support saving the facilities. He and other town officials are urging more people to take the survey before Oct. 11. That will inform a community meeting scheduled for Oct. 25 at Hayden High School, which will help determine the future of the gym and auditorium.

In addition to the survey being available online, every resident should have received a print version of the survey asking his or her opinion on the matter, according to Mendisco.

The Hayden School District currently is preparing to relocate all of its students to a new, pre-K-12 facility by fall 2020. Construction on that project began in March and was funded in large part by a $38.8 million BEST grant from the state of Colorado.

Using that grant required the old Hayden High School and middle school to be demolished unless a public entity opts to purchase or operate it, according to previous reporting from Steamboat Pilot & Today. The reason for that stipulation, according to Mendisco, is to avoid a private entity taking over the building but not actually doing anything with the space, which would leave the community with an eyesore. 

Hayden school survey

People can fill out the online survey here:

“The town is the only entity that (the BEST grant committee) would allow the ability for the school to be repurposed,” Mendisco said. 

Before Hayden goes forward with any action to acquire the building, Mendisco and other officials want to make sure the community supports its conservation and repurposing into a community space.

One of the primary challenges to that initiative is financing the renovations necessary to transform the gymnasium and auditorium into useable space. 

If you go

What: Community meeting to discuss repurposing the Hayden high school and middle school

When: 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25

Where: Hayden High School, 495 West Jefferson Ave.

As Mendisco explained, some of the equipment is not up to code, such as the gym bleachers and basketball hoops. The air conditioning unit also does not work properly, and the roof is in need of repair. 

A 2015 school assessment report from the Colorado Department of Education found that it would cost just over $15 million to fix deficiencies in the entire building. 

That price tag accounts for renovating all of the rooms in the school, most of which would be demolished. Mendisco calculated that fixing only the gymnasium and auditorium, totaling about 70,000 square feet, could cost $2 million to $2.5 million. That is a preliminary calculation based solely on the percentage of the building those two facilities comprise. 

“It’s going to cost a lot of money,” Mendisco said. “If people are going to be supportive, they need to know all the aspects of what it will take to own a facility like this.”

To that end, about 20 residents have formed multiple committees that have been meeting in recent weeks to brainstorm ways to repurpose the building and how to fund renovations. 

Hayden resident Amy Williams has been a regular at meetings aimed at developing a list of possible uses. She and other committee members envision multiple options being viable for the space as it is so large. 

Among the top options are a public fitness facility in the existing gym, an entertainment venue in the existing auditorium and space for child care programs. 

As the president for Totally Kids, a nonprofit that provides before- and after-school activities for local kids, Williams has had to shift the location of childcare programs to various places around Hayden. Moving into a repurposed secondary school could change that. 

“That facility would give us a permanent home and the ability to expand our offerings,” Williams said. 

Part of the survey asks respondents about other potential uses they would like to see for the gym and auditorium, including an events center for weddings and dances or an artisans space for crafts like woodworking and pottery. 

Williams is particularly excited about the potential of turning the auditorium into a performing arts center for plays, musical performances and other entertainment. Such events could attract visitors and support local culture. 

“It would be something that we have not really had in little small-ville,” Williams said. 

Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief Theater in Steamboat Springs, was one of the first people to advocate saving the auditorium. In August, he brought a performance of the Chief Players’ melodrama, “Blazing Guns at the Hot Springs Hotel,” to the auditorium’s theater to garner support for its conservation.

“It’s just such a nice facility,” he said. “It would be a shame to tear down a perfectly good theater with 375 seats in it.”

Due to the overwhelming support among online survey respondents to save the gym and auditorium, Mendisco has identified several grants that could garner the funds necessary to repurpose the facilities. He recently sent a $50,000 grant request to the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. 

“If we are eligible and we can make it happen, we are applying,” he said. 

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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