Howelsen, Hot Springs still on table

Split recreation center at sites not yet ruled out

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Zach Rosa, 10, rides his skateboard outdoors at the Howelsen Skate Park in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon. The City Council has not yet ruled out the option of building new facilities at Howelsen Hill and Old Town Hot Springs instead of a consolidated facility at Ski Town Fields.

— City officials might, just might, ask Steamboat Springs voters to approve new recreation facilities at Howelsen Hill and Old Town Hot Springs, despite expressing support last month - and this week - for a consolidated facility at Ski Town Fields.

Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council saw a presentation by recreation consultant Chuck Musgrave of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture in Denver. At the request of City Manager Alan Lanning, Musgrave presented options for new facilities including a gym, youth center and teen center at Howelsen Hill. Musgrave also presented plans for building aquatic facilities at the Old Town Hot Springs site downtown. He told the City Council that recreation facilities at Howelsen and Old Town Hot Springs would cost about $37 million.

The presentation was somewhat of a step backward for the City Council, which voted, 3-2, July 10 to support Musgrave's recommendation of a $34 million, consolidated recreation center at Ski Town Fields on Pine Grove Road, near The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.

But factors have changed since then, Lanning said.

Chris Wilson, director of the city's Department of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, presented a master plan for Howelsen Hill last month. The master plan included numerous potential long-term expansions and improvements, such as a new ski slope, tubing hill and weight training facility, all of which could cost about $20 million.

"I wanted to see how that (master) plan tied in with the recreation effort, if we relocated facilities at the base of Howelsen," Lanning said. "I asked (Musgrave) to consider that as part of the equation."

The city hired Musgrave in February to analyze possible sites and costs for new recreation facilities in Steamboat, in preparation for a ballot issue in November.

City Clerk Julie Jordan told the City Council that the ballot must be certified Sept. 7.

On Tuesday, Lanning will present the City Council with two ballot questions - one proposing split recreation facilities for $37 million and the other proposing the consolidated Ski Town center for $34 million.

The City Council has two remaining meetings, Tuesday and Sept. 4, to approve ballot language by a resolution.

"I think the motivation is to do the consolidated center. I just don't know how far back that's going to push the Howelsen master plan," City Council President Susan Dellinger said. "My hope was that there was some way we could integrate the two things : it's a shame that we didn't see the master plan during this whole discussion."

Also Tuesday, members of the public and some City Council members discussed rumors that the pool at Moffat County High School, where Steamboat youths swim competitively, will be closing for good - a development that would spur the need for aquatic facilities at a new recreation center in Steamboat, or at Old Town Hot Springs.

Mike Taylor, facilities manager for the Moffat County School District, flatly denied those rumors Wednesday.

"We will open the pool Nov. 1, when our youth program starts," Taylor said, adding that the pool will be open as scheduled for the duration of youth programs, at least into May 2008.

But Taylor acknowledged that financial and age concerns likely mean the Craig pool could close sooner rather than later.

"It's 26 years old, and there are leaks and things of that nature. The thing costs more than $100,000 to operate, and we have to weigh that," Taylor said. "Somewhere down the line, we're going to have to put more money into this pool, or we're going to have to close it. We're looking at a budget crunch."

- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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