WECMRD Eagle Area Manager Sheryl Staten is the downvalley queen of play
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EAGLE — Everyone raising kids in Eagle or Gypsum probably crosses paths with Sheryl Staten at some point.
Why? Because she is the unofficial downvalley queen of fun as the Eagle area recreation manager for the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District.
Staten has been with WECMRD for 16 years now, starting as an office assistant and working her way up to being one of the few female ice rink managers in the country. Along the way, she helped introduce kids to sports ranging from cheerleading to hockey and encouraged countless hours of play at the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink.
“As a recreation professional, you can really reach kids in the community in hopefully a happy way,” Staten said. “I am proud of WECMRD’s programs and facilities and its commitment to affordable recreation opportunities.”
Born a Badger
While Staten has spent almost two decades in Eagle County, she grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a community located outside of Milwaukee. She had two older brothers and was raised by a single mother. It may come as a surprise for people who know her as a fierce hockey or roller derby competitor (more about that later), but as a teenager, she was a pom-pom girl. After high school, she headed off to the University of Wisconsin, and she is still an avid Badger fan.
“But the whole time I was in college, I said as soon as I graduated, I was moving to Colorado,” Staten said.
She had visited her brother, who had moved to Colorado, and she fell in love with the state. Shortly after she completed her degree in social work and psychology, she packed up her two-door Saturn and headed west. She went to work as a ski instructor for Vail Resorts and spent nights bartending at Paddy’s. When the Avon Recreation Center opened, Staten saw an opportunity.
“I ran the front desk when they opened and then began after-school programs at the elementary school,” she said. She also worked the equipment rental counter at the Nottingham Lake cabin. Staten remained in Avon for five years and spent summers working for the U.S. Forest Service.
“I did recreation and hunter patrols in the Flat Tops, and I even did a little wildland firefighting at that time,” she said.
Getting her foot in the door
Early on, Staten noticed something about recreation employment — people tended to remain in their jobs long term.
“People weren’t leaving in Avon, and WECMRD advertised for an office manager,” she said. “I knew it would be a good way to get my foot in the door.”
She began work for WECMRD on Feb. 14, 2001. Just a year later, the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink opened — the first large-scale facility the recreation district built.
Staten eventually became the assistant manager at the Eagle facility and then moved to the Gypsum Recreation Center when it opened more than a decade ago. Then, eight years ago, she was named manager of the Eagle site.
Along the way, she met her husband, Mike, when he interviewed with WECMRD for an internship so he could complete his master’s degree program.
“I apparently winked at him during his interview, but then I wink at everyone,” Staten said.
Mike is now the WECMRD Edwards area manager, and the Statens have two daughters: Brooke, 11, and Shaelyn, 8.
“When I had kids, it made me look at recreation differently,” Staten said. “It made me understand how hard it is to get the kids to all their activities.”
It also gave her a new appreciation for how expenses add up for kids’ activities. WECMRD does everything it can to keep costs down, she said.
The latest example is the Colorado Avalanche youth hockey program that outfits kids with a full set of gear — including skates, pads, pants, a helmet and a stick — for just $160. When they are done with the six instructional sessions, the kids get to keep all that stuff.
“It is like Christmas arrives at your door,” Staten said.
During the winter season, the facility is focused on hockey and learn-to-skate programs, with open skate times thrown in the mix. There are four major youth hockey tournaments at the site every year that bring in teams from across Colorado.
Outside of the pool and ice rink, Eagle-area programs include basketball, football, soccer, cheer, lacrosse, mountain biking and more. During the summer, the pool is one of the community’s most popular places to hang out and a full slate of swimming lessons are offered.
As the facility manager, Staten has had to learn about refrigeration, water filtration, chemistry, Zamboni mechanics and more.
“We have a small staff here, but we get a lot done,” she said.
Outside of work, Staten still likes to play. She is a member of the local women’s hockey league and an avid snowboarder. Until a back injury a few years ago that required a number of surgeries, she also skated with the local roller derby league.
Staten acknowledged that she is a people person.
“But I escape to the woods whenever I can. That’s my happy place,” Staten said. “And my family truly means the world to me.”
As the local recreation maven, Staten said her biggest challenge lies in her desire to please everyone.
“I am very much a people pleaser and I can’t make everyone happy. That’s the hard part for me,” she said.
As WECMRD looks to its future, Staten hopes to see an expansion to the Eagle Pool & Ice Rink. She would like to see the facility take on a fitness element, for example.
Like the recreation professionals she observed in Avon years ago, Staten has no plans to leave her job. She said it has given her the opportunity to learn ice and pool science, program management, human resources and even anger management skills.
Over the years, she has been recognized by the community and the recreation industry for her contributions. She is a former Colorado Parks and Recreation Professional of the Year and recently the Eagle River Youth Coalition named her as one of the area’s Difference Makers.
“I love, love, love what I do and I love this community. We are blessed to live here,” Staten said.