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Gypsum ready to design rec center

Kathy Heicher

Don’t break out the water wings and gym shoes just yet – but keep them near by.

The Gypsum Town Council last week voted to spend $33,500 on architectural and consulting services for a town recreation center. That decision is the first step in a phased process that will lead to construction of a community recreation facility that will have an indoor swimming pool among other features.

Over the next year, architects will stage a series of public meetings that will help shape the new facility. Concurrently, financial consultants will take a look at the numbers and provide town leaders with a picture of just how it will cost to build and operate the facility.

The town anticipates building a 40,000 to 50,000 square foot facility adjacent to the Town Hall at a cost somewhere between $6 million and $9 million. Gypsum Councilman Tom Edwards said the town and the Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District will each contribute $3 million toward the project. The remainder of the money will be raised through other sources. Town officials said they would like to see some county financial involvement and will also pursue grants.

If the planning goes well construction could start in April, 2005.

“This is coming to reality,” said a beaming Mayor Steve Carver, following the council’s March 9 vote. The Denver-based architectural firm of Barker Rinker Seacat will design the facility. The firm has designed more than 100 recreation centers across the country, including facilities at Glenwood Springs, Evergreen, Lafayette, South Park, Golden, Longmont and Boulder. GreenPlay, a Broomfield-based consulting firm, will work closely with architects in providing the financial details.

In addition to the indoor pool, the recreation center could include such features as multi-purpose rooms, fitness area, weight room, cardio-training area, child activity room, gymnastics space, a walking and jogging track, and an aerobics and dance room. The architects and consultants stressed that at this point in the process the plan is fluid..

“We are excited. We would like as many of the public as possible to come to meetings, and get familiar with the proposals,” said Town Manager Jeff Shroll. Representatives of the architectural firm said they have a variety of ideas and techniques for keeping costs low while meeting local needs.

While the consultants will be seeking public input, Shroll said the town is hesitant to commission yet another recreation needs survey.

“Sometimes the biggest comment we get back is ‘stop surveying me and build the thing,'” he said. In various surveys in recent years, local residents have consistently identified an indoor swimming pool as a top recreation priority.

Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, who was paying a visit to the Gypsum Town Board, inquired about the long-term financial feasibility of the recreation center.

The town of Eagle contemplated an indoor pool facility in the early stages of planning their recently completed recreation facility, but officials ultimately decided the cost of operating a year-round indoor pool was too great. Instead, the town decided on an outdoor pool and indoor ice rink.

“That’s why we’re going with both a (financial) feasibility consultant and an architect. We’re looking for an answer as to what we can afford,” said Edwards.

Some communities with indoor recreation centers have ended up subsidizing the operations by as much as 50 to 70 percent. And Shroll said there is “no doubt” the town will end up paying out an annual subsidy for operation of the facility.

“The capital (construction) is the easy part. The hard part is keeping the doors open. We feel the team’s expertise will help to bring down the cost,” said Shroll.

Menconi did not make any commitment for the county, but said some level of partnership is feasible.

The Western Eagle County rec district’s board of directors and staff were in the audience, nodding their approval for the planning process. Carver said that four or five years ago, the town had an adversarial relationship with rec board. Town council members frequently complained that the town was not getting enough service from the district and threatened to form their own recreation department.

That relationship has improved over the years; helped along by voter approval of a substantial tax increase for the recreation district. Carver lauded the town’s recreation committee and the rec district board for their work.

“You people have done a great job. Look at what we have today,” he said.


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