Eagle, Gypsum demand growing for rec facilities
GYPSUM, Colorado A year after opening the Gypsum Recreation Center, recreation officials report the center is more popular than they ever thought. The Gypsum facility isnt an anomaly. Membership at the Eagle Ranch Fitness Center is more than 30 percent above projections. Attendance at Eagle Ice Rink programs during the winter and at the outdoor pool in the summer continues to hold strong, generating enough revenue to make the facility self-sufficient.According to Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District director Steve Russell, all of those numbers mean Eagle County is a great place to be in the recreation business.
The $13 million Gypsum Rec Center obviously represented a sizable financial investment for WECMRD and the town of Gypsum. When the center opened, WECMRD hoped to attract 2,500 members by the completion of the first year. Turns out, WECMRD was thinking too small.We had 2,500 members within six months of opening, Russell said.Today, the Gypsum Rec Center has more than 3,500 active members. During 2007, the center recorded nearly 104,000 visits, not including parties, rentals or gymnastics classes.User numbers have been so high that the Gypsum Recreation Center can make a nearly unprecedented claim the facility recouped its operating costs in the first year of business.When I did my survey of recreation centers around the state, nobody else did that from Durango to Frederick and all in between, said Russell.WECMRD and the town of Gypsum figured on a $500,000 subsidy to pay for operating costs at the center during its first year. Instead, after all expenses are paid the two entities will be sharing roughty $100,000 surplus money generated from memberships and daily visit fees.Russell said that one caveat of the towns participation was that the center be affordable for working, downvalley families. Daily admission prices are $5 for youth under 17 years and $7 for adults.Prior to opening, Russell said many people expressed skepticism that a 50,000 square foot recreation center would be viable in Gypsum. But there was such pent-up demand for it. There are so many local families who want to be active.Russell said the indoor pool recorded 46,803 visits last year, making it the most popular facility within the center. However, the fitness area and gymnastics program also drew high numbers.The Gypsum Rec Center recently added two new tenants Howard Head Sports Medicine and the Vail Valley Academy of Martial Arts which are expected to boost user numbers in 2008.Every expectation that we set was met or has been consistently exceeded over the past year, said Scott Ruff, Gypsum Recreation Center manager.
Last year, WECMRD also opened a second fitness center, albeit a much more modest operation.The 5,000-square-foot Eagle Ranch Fitness Center opened for business in July 2007.The center financing came from the Eagle Ranch developers and homeowners association. WECMRD was tapped as the facility operator. As part of a marketing plan that centered on Eagle Ranch homeowners, WECMRD hoped to have 300 active memberships by years end. The center has exceeded that goal by more than 30 percent, with 400 active memberships.Mostly, what people like there is it is a small club with top of the line equipment and personal service, Russell said. It seems like theres demand in this part of the valley for fitness facilities.
The five-year-old Eagle Pool and Ice Rink is the old lady on the block in terms of downvalley recreation facilities.The pool attracts an average of 25,000 visits during its June through August season. We have a daily capacity of 360. We are right up at that some days, depending on the weather, Russell said.Over at the ice rink, the facility is basically booked from noon to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
As WECMRD considers future facilities, the Edwards area is due for some new additions.Russell said the athletic fields, playground and skate park at Freedom Park are among the most-used facilities WECMRD operates. Freedom Park is right in the middle of everything. When the new elementary school and high school are completed, there will be 2,000 school-age kids within walking distance, he said. That is what we call ideally located.An advisory committee has recommended a field house a large facility that would include an indoor multi-use, artificial turf field as well as a floor area for court sports as a WECMRD facility at Freedom Park. Russell said a field house seems like a logical extension of the areas success. And, judging by how popular the facility has been to date, the Field of Dreams adage If you build it, people will come is holding true.This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.