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Vision of a pearl

Don Rogers

Peter Bergh, an Edwards-based landscape architect who over 35 years has built a company that operates community centers, developed the $25 million to $30 million proposal the county is looking at now.

The idea is for the enterprise, sandwiched between four soccer fields to the east and a 5-acre lake to the west, to break even while providing a raft of recreational and other community services for people from preschool to well into retirement.

The Berry Creek center is reminiscent of the Learning Center idea that Vail considered and ultimately discarded a couple of years ago, though this one comes in at half to a third of the projected costs and has a much better location. There’s the familiar ice rink (this one built to NHL standards), meeting rooms, office space for non-profits, climbing wall, skate park, gymnastics facility, day care possibility, elder care, weight room, convention-type space and even kitchen sinks.

In addition, this center would include an indoor aquatics center with several pools, two full-court basketball courts, squash courts, a women-only fitness center.

An indoor fieldhouse could serve athletic activities such as soccer, tennis, baseball, even golf. It could also hold concerts and exhibitions and such. A raised running track would surely get plenty of use, as well, at least during winter.

The placement for all this looks ideal. There’s lots of room, it’s in a central location in the valley, and the proximity of ball fields and lake bring a certain synergy missing in other spots.

The valley’s population growth is such that similar centers, such as the one under construction in Eagle, and Avon’s rec center, which is at capacity now, likely would not have to compete to survive. There should be plenty of business for each of the centers, assuming they are run well.

Vail’s on and off again discussions about a permanent second sheet of ice probably would wane, and the controversial ice bubble’s days appear numbered anyway.

It’s conceivable that Berry Creek may even become a magnet for out of town visitors as a break from skiing or golfing, depending on the season. That notion may disturb some folks in Vail who still hold to the archaic idea that no paying customer should “escape” west of Dowd Junction. For more realistic minds, there’s opportunity in a Berry Creek center, along with relief from the thinking that Vail has an obligation to provide all the recreational amenities for the entire valley.

Bergh has a bold, exciting idea brewing here, and county Commissioners Tom Stone and Michael Gallagher wisely agreed this week to pursue the next steps toward building the center. Commissioner Arn Menconi is vacationing in British Columbia and missed this week’s board session.

In the grist mill known as local government, that next step amounts to a more detailed study about the feasibility of the venture.

As with all civic dreams, the sober reality of raising the cash needed to build the thing will determine what exactly, if anything, will open its doors as soon as 2004. One way that Bergh points out in his proposal is forming a public-private-not-for-private organization with the ability to use revenue bonds and tax-deductible donations to build and then manage the center.

Bergh understands the gantlet ahead with his unique collection of talents and experience with community centers and decades of service in local government, including his current stint on the Berry Creek Metro Board.

The vision is compelling, even breathtaking. Let’s count that as a promising start.

D.R.


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