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Five years of fun in Gypsum

Derek Franz
Eagle Valley Enterprise

GYPSUM – The Gypsum Recreation Center officially turned five years old Friday.

So much has happened in such little time – and the facility’s programs continue to expand.

The rec center continues to host one of the largest gymnastics meets in the state every year, with about 1,000 people coming in the doors. It has also hosted a “trash boat” Earth Day competition, bouldering contests, Cycle-A-Thons, charity events, lock-ins, graduations and everything in between.



The rec center serves many people outside of Gypsum as well.

The rec center’s manager, Scott Ruff, said 65 percent of the members are from Gypsum, 28 percent are from Eagle and the rest come from all over, including Glenwood Springs.

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The center had 3,580 members after its first 14 months of operation. It currently has 3,824 members. Before the recession hit, there were more than 4,000 members.

“I believe we found the reception from Gypsum residents to be even stronger than we anticipated,” said Steve Russell, the director of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District, which operates the rec center. “I think we’ve had nearly every resident of Gypsum through the building at one time or another and we’re now seeing our young 2006 members moving into middle and high school. I don’t want to overlook the strong support from Eagle residents, either – they make up about a third of our membership. That speaks, I feel, to the quality planning and design that provided a regional attraction for the center.”

Meanwhile, the WECMRD staff strives to create new programs.



“We’ve always tried to be one step ahead of the norm in Eagle County,” Ruff said. “We were the first to have interactive gaming systems and TRX workout programs – we want to keep things fresh and create that ‘wow.'”

There are too many programs to go through them all here, but Ruff said that the rec center has become even more versatile since the new Gypsum Public Library opened nearby.

“The library has been a positive impact on the GRC,” he said. “They offer programs to the community that we don’t or cannot because of resources. If anything, it will boost our numbers because of the convenience of both facilities being so close. Our Rec Kids summer day camp utilizes the library as an afternoon activity every day. I have been very impressed with the town of Gypsum’s vision for facilities and recreation. Think about it – the town hall, recreation center, library, amphitheater and sports complex is all in one area. It is the central hub of all activities in our community.”

History

In 2002, WECMRD voters approved a mill levy increase, from 1.95 to 3.65 mills. That gave the WECMRD enough money to help with numerous recreation projects, including the ice rink and pool at Eagle, development of facilities at Freedom Park in Edwards, and building a recreation center in Gypsum.

Gypsum town leaders decided if they were going to build a recreation facility, they were going to do it right. They brought in a feasibility consultant and they found, based on the desires of residents, that Gypsum would need a bigger center than initially proposed.

Pam Schultz, a Gypsum Town Council member who also served on the recreation committee, remembered the citizen input process that included surveys, public meetings and concept drawings.

“Some of them were farfetched ideas, some were big wishes and some were items that needed to be in a recreation center … with each meeting, we seemed to add a few more items that each person on the committee wanted to see in a recreation center,” she said in a 2002 preview story about the grand opening.

The bigger facility had a $12 million price tag.

The funding came from all over the valley. In addition to the mill-levy increase, Gypsum voters approved the major funding by voting in a new, one cent sales tax in November 2004. The tax revenues were dedicated for the rec center. WECMRD gave $3.1 million; Eagle County contributed $500,000; and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs gave more than $600,000. The rest of the funding came from the town of Gypsum, which paid about $8 million.

“It is worth it,” said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll in 2002. “I think we accommodated every need that was ever a priority in the process.”

Russell agreed.

“It was certainly well needed,” he said. “The western part of our district had strong programming, but in terms of facilities, we were lacking.”

Looking ahead

“I am still awed by the fact that WECMRD and the town of Gypsum have a strong bond in working together and providing such an awesome facility and programs to the citizens,” Schultz reflected.

“Prior to five years ago, it was a touch-and-go situation. Now, we have a great working relationship and intergovernmental agreements with WECMRD. Steve Russell, Scott Ruff, and the entire staff at WECMRD are just fantastic people to work with and be partners with,” she said.

Schultz added that WECMRD has come a long way in the last five years.

“I personally look forward to working with them for the next 25 years. I don’t see WECMRD going anywhere anytime soon. Only getting bigger and better. They provide such great programs for the kids of all ages, and for the adults and for the families of Gypsum,” said Schultz.

Kelly Hagenah contributed to this report.


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