Mountain Rec to send ballot question to voters asking for $60M in upgrades |

Mountain Rec to send ballot question to voters asking for $60M in upgrades

To meet the demands of a growing valley, district wants to build for the future before it’s too late

A rendering shows off the proposed workout facility at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink. The district will ask voters for a tax increase to fund upgrades on November’s ballot.
Mountain Recreation

Mountain Recreation’s big ask of voters on November’s ballot won’t be as big as originally pitched after more than five months of taking the temperature of district residents.

Since April, Mountain Recreation board members, senior administrators and staffers have been listening to feedback from residents about a proposed ballot question to approve a property-tax increase to fund upgrades at its facilities in Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum and also expand programming.

What they heard from two targeted surveys and in-person feedback at more than 30 events across the valley over the spring and summer is that the bulk of voters are largely enthusiastic about the upgrades. But what was also clear: $80 million was too steep.

So, hearing that, November’s ballot question — approved last week in a unanimous vote by the district’s board of directors — will ask voters to approve a property-tax increase that will support about $60 million in construction, as well as provide operating and maintenance funds moving forward.

The mill levy increase is estimated to cost $32 per year per $100,000 in home value, or about $217 per year for the average home in the district. That’s a substantial decrease from the previous All Access Rec proposal that contemplated $80 million in upgrades to the district’s facilities and recreation offerings.

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A rendering of the proposed upgrades to the Edwards Field House.
Mountain Recreation

“In truth, it was always our goal to fundraise $20 million, to reduce the cost of the project to from the $80 million to the $60 million,” said Janet Bartnik, Mountain Recreation’s executive director. “We’re very pleased to have gotten a mix of funds from our partners, and we also made a few minor tweaks to save money while still delivering the same level of service.”

More than just rec centers

If there’s one absolute in all the outreach and polling done by Mountain Recreation to gauge voters, it’s that the district’s facilities are wildly popular. That’s obvious to anyone who took a dip on a hot day at the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink this summer, has attended a birthday party the Gypsum Recreation Center, or has ever played on the turf at the Edwards Field House. All three facilities hum with activity.

All three are also aging and were constructed at a time when the population of residents in the district was much smaller.

The Eagle Pool and Ice Rink is now 18 years old, and was built when Eagle numbered 3,000 or so residents. The town’s population has more than doubled since. The Gypsum Recreation Center is 15 years old, while the Edwards Field House is now 13 years old. None of the facilities have undergone a large expansion since opening.

A rendering of the proposed upgrades to the workout area at the Gypsum Rec Center.
Mountain Recreation

And with the valley’s population growing at the rate it is, Mountain Recreation officials have said that the future of the district depends on creating the facilities that will meet the demand of residents in the years to come.

“I feel like this is a really good representation of the community’s needs,” said Mike McCormack, a member of the Mountain Recreation Board of Directors. “This represents the will of our constituents. It’s a lot of things for a lot of people and it improves quality of life for people year-round.”

If approved, the measure would allow the district to make facility and equipment improvements to its three popular facilities in Eagle, Edwards and Gypsum, as well as adding more community spaces, additional programs for all ages, and an All Access Pass to allow community members to utilize all three facilities.

There will also be year-round access through updated and new community spaces, behavioral health programs, local nonprofit services, and social activities, as well as improvements to trailhead, swimming, and recreational facilities to provide more access for active outdoor recreation, summer camps, and youth and adult recreation programs.

“It absolutely resonates, turning rec centers into community centers that are multicultural and multi-generational,” McCormack said. “For families, this is wonderful. For our seniors, there is tons of stuff. And for the disadvantaged in our community, it only opens our doors wider.”

Bartnik summed it up like this: “Everyone deserves to be healthy and happy.”

McCormack also stressed the urgency of the upgrades, with construction costs rapidly rising as property values continue to skyrocket

“If we don’t get through a little bit of a pain point now, we may never be able to do it,” he said.

“We are committed to providing great services and programs to meet the needs of our growing community, but without making investments in our recreational facilities, we will soon not be able to keep up with our community’s needs,” said Liz Jones, Mountain Rec’s board president, in a news release. “All Access Rec will allow the district to make improvements that will turn our locations into vibrant community centers, provide activities, services and recreational spaces for kids, teens, adults and seniors.”

Raising the rest

For the other $20 million that voters won’t be asked to cover, Bartnik and McCormack said the district has already raised more than $6 million through its foundation and is still working with businesses, nonprofits and local governments to raise additional money to help complete the entire All Access Rec program.

The district’s board and staff also went through a comprehensive value engineering process to review each project to respond to community concerns about the overall cost and to save wherever possible.

A rendering of the proposed basketball courts at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink.
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For instance, Bartnik said, for the double indoor gymnasium planned for the Eagle Pool and Ice Rink facility, the architect was showing the gymnasium as having a portico up to the upper level where there would be an indoor track.

“We just said, let’s trim that portico and still provide regular emergency egress,” Bartnik said. “It’s a teeny thing that saves money and doesn’t reduce services.”

Through its outreach, district officials have reminded voters that the district’s previous mill levy increase came nearly 20 years ago, and the district’s last bond was paid off 10 years early.

“We whittled a little bit, sharpened our pencils, and through some surveys, we were really able to pinpoint what was palatable to the community,” McCormack said. “It was important to get the measure across the finish line, and our polling suggested we’ll have more success with the $60 million. It’s the public’s money, and we want to be very careful about how we spend it.”

What’s in the All Access Rec plan

Here’s a list of projects included in the Mountain Recreation bond issue that will go to voters in November:

Edwards Field House

  • Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
  • Fitness studios
  • Locker rooms
  • Community rooms
  • Double indoor gymnasium with hard wood floors for basketball, volleyball and pickleball
  • Demonstration kitchen
  • Indoor walking track
  • Open gathering space

Eagle Pool & Ice Rink

  • Larger outdoor pool and support building
  • Trailhead improvements (portion of site work, playground, pavilion and restrooms)
  • Fitness center with strength training and cardio equipment
  • Fitness studios
  • Locker rooms
  • Community rooms
  • Double hardwood gymnasium with indoor walking track

Gypsum Rec Center

  • Bumped out two-story fitness center
  • Gymnasium for basketball, volleyball, pickleball
  • Outdoor splash pad
  • Major mechanical upgrades
  • Replacing the current roof

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