The powers that be at Crown Mountain Park, best known for its wide array of outdoor-oriented recreational opportunities, are exploring the idea of constructing a substantial indoor facility.
The idea is still very much in the conceptual stage, but, at its next regular meeting on Sept. 11, the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District board of directors will eyeball results of a request for proposals sent out by park staff earlier this summer.
The deadline for those proposal was Thursday.
According to Rebecca Wagner, executive director of the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District, the notion of constructing an indoor facility came about because of a comprehensive needs assessment that was integrated into a five-year strategic plan completed in February.
“We did a needs assessment asking what indoor and outdoor facilities do we have from Glenwood to Aspen?” Wagner said. “Then we talked to all the directors, club organizers and recreation departments to see what type of registration numbers they have, with ratios comparing the amount of indoor and outdoor facilities to participant use. That led us to the conclusion that the biggest need is indoor facilities in the midvalley.
“We moved on to feasibility study to see if there’s any way we could break even by constructing a new indoor facility, because we do not want to go to the taxpayers for funding on a facility like this,” Wagner continued. “If the feasibility study would have come back saying that an indoor facility would have to be heavily subsidized, we wouldn’t even move forward. But the feasibility study said we could do it with 100 percent recovery. The next step is to determine what it would cost to build and how are we going to fund it through public and private donations.”
The feasibility study, commissioned by Crown Mountain in April at a cost of $13,800, was conducted by Louisville, Colorado-based GreenPlay, which describes itself on the company website as “The leading edge in parks, recreation and open space consulting.”
According to Nate Grinzinger, CMP’s park and recreation manager, the hope is that the board will green light the next stage of the process.
“We’re going to give the board the bids and the architectural drawings we showed on the current feasibility study that was completed by GreenPlay,” he said. “We hope the board will be making the decision on September 11 as far as moving forward with architectural drawings.”
“They’re going to be reviewing the feasibility study and then looking at the next steps in the process,” Wagner added. “They haven’t even looked at the feasibility study yet.”
The concept as it stands now would be to construct what Wagner and Grinzinger are calling a “sports field house,” which would be 60-70,000 square feet.
The vision at this point would not include potential money drains like a swimming pool or ice rink.
“We’re looking at a building that breaks even,” Grinzinger said. “Our feasibility study shows a cost recovery of 99 percent. We’re looking to put things under the roof that generate revenue. There would be indoor turf for a variety of sports and a fitness area. There’s the possibility of leasing space for local organizations to come in and have some offices. There would be room for gymnastics and party rental space.”
Wagner and Grinzinger used the 15,000-square-foot Edwards Field House as an operational comparable. That facility has an indoor turf field and an indoor basketball court. Programs offered include summer camps for kids, gymnastics classes, fitness programs and adult sports leagues.
The Edwards Field House, according to Grinzinger, “is at about a 92 percent cost recovery right now and they don’t even have a fitness center. The director said the other day that, if they had fitness, they would break even on the facility.
“The Aspen Recreation Center is subsidized at a rate of 52 percent, and the community right out of the gate said ‘we’re OK with that,’” Grinzinger continued. “We’re not trying to do that. If this facility gets popular and people see the benefit — which most of the communities we’ve analyzed, that’s what happens — then maybe that’s a different conversation. Do we want to add a pool? Do we want to add an ice rink? That is not happening in phase one. We’re not going to subsidize the facility out of the gate. It will have to pay for itself from the beginning.
Wagner and Grinzinger are reluctant to guess at this point what the building would actually cost.
“It depends on the square footage, what type of materials you’re going to use, what kind of roof you put on,” Wagner said.
“This is not going to be some big $20 million recreation center,” Grinzinger said.
Wagner and Grinzinger are adamant that funds for the indoor facility would not come from taxpayers, which is a big issue, given that, just last year, midvalley voters narrowly approved a property tax increase to support the existing operations of the Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District.
The CMP board asked voters for 1.95 mills on top of the 1 mill that currently generates revenue for park operations and maintenance. The 1.95-mill increase was estimated to bring in about $695,000 annually. Park officials, and a majority of board members, contended that the district’s pre-election tax revenue of around $350,000 per year wasn’t nearly enough to maintain the quality of the 16-year-old facility.
Opponents claimed the increase was too high, as well as fiscally irresponsible because there was no sunset provision, or ending date, connected to the tax.
The increase, which passed by a margin of 1,178 yes votes to 1,106 no votes, amounted to $14 per $100,000 of residential property value, or $70 annually on a half-million-dollar home. While critics focused on the $14 figure, that increase will drop to $5 in 2023, when the $5.1 million bond to pay for the park’s creation is expected to be paid off.
In 2013, voters rejected two measures proposed by Crown Mountain Park & Recreation District that would have increased taxes to fund an indoor recreation center
The goal for the proposed indoor facility, according to Wagner, will be to raise money for initial construction via a combination of private sector donations and grants.
Money is not the only potential monkey wrench. There is also the matter of where this indoor recreation facility would be constructed. Though somewhere in the midst of the 123-acre park would seem appropriate, that is not realistic.
“That makes most sense, but anything we build at the park triggers a mandatory upgrade of the El Jebel intersection on Highway 82,” Grinzinger said. “Cost for that is estimated at $4 million.”
“We’re looking at leasing probably 3.5 acres of land,” Wagner said. “One possible location is across the highway near the El Jebel trailer park, which is owned by Crawford properties and is zoned for recreational sports complexes. There’s already been approval for a new school in that area.”
“The Crawford family is willing to let us look at their land, which is awesome,” Grinzinger said. “They basically said, ‘We know there’s a need, we know it’s important to the community and the community needs this.’ They’re willing to have this conversation.”
According to Wagner, building a recreational complex on the El Jebel side of Highway 82 would not trigger the need to upgrade the intersection.
“They already fixed that side of the highway when they put in the roundabout last year,” she said. “That’s an area that potentially could have a new school, so it would be on the bus route. It’s next to a lot of families that would probably use the facility.”
Based at least partially on the battle that was waged last year to get the property tax increase passed, Wagner fully understands that the process of trying to get a new indoor recreation complex located, funded and constructed will be intense. But she considers the effort a big part of Crown Mountain Park’s mission.
“I’m sick of hearing about all these kids who are committing suicide and about all the health issues and the need for facilities to keep families active and kids out of trouble,” she said. “I’m done with it. I’m ready to make a change to provide programming opportunities to the community that they need. That’s my No. 1 goal — I want to continue to help the community stay healthy.”
“It’s partly mental health and partly physical health, but at the same time we look at ourselves as extremely capable of boosting the local economy, helping local business owners and bring more vibrancy to the midvalley,” Grinzinger said.
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to see growth and development,” he continued. “But there are some people who say we need a lot more options for our kids to stay out of trouble and keep the community healthy. We think more needs to be done.”
“We want to make it a really multi-generational facility,” Wagner said. “We’d be looking at putting a small track around the fitness area for seniors for walking, senior fitness classes and then also multigenerational playground for kids and adults. There’s no place to bring young kids around here except the pools. We would be giving people another option, so the whole family can use facility.”
Wagner said that, if the Crown Mountain board gives the go-ahead on Sept. 11, the process of fundraising would soon begin.
Crown Mountain Park sees 260,000 people visits and 90,000 dog visits annually, according to Wagner.
Andre Salvail contributed reporting to this story.