Editorial: Show us the money
Renee Campbell, publisher
Clay Thorp, reporter
Pete Pleasant, community representative
Desiree Moore, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.
As spring wakes with a yawn and the sunny days begin to heat Craig, the children in our homes and inside each of us are beginning to reemerge — longing for a little recreation after the winter months. So, it might not surprise residents that the debate over a possible community recreation center in Craig is also reemerging.
For decades, our community has tried and failed to pass a recreation center initiative. As the years have gone by, other nearby cities large and small are enjoying their own new community recreation centers.
Steering committees here in Craig have polled the public — or at least those who are involved and attend their meetings — as to what residents want in their recreation center. Seniors want a permanent space with a free walking track. The swim team needs an indoor pool. The kids need a place to play basketball, soccer, and other sports at a facility capable of hosting tournaments for those sports.
Our entire community needs an affordable place to participate in physical activity during the long winter months when the outdoors are not so welcoming. Much work has been and continues to be done to build a coalition of stakeholders and to educate residents about the benefits of a community recreation center.
We only need an estimated $15 million to $20 million upfront for construction and homeowners and businesses to pay a little bit more in taxes every year.
It seems simple, but each time this initiative was put on the ballot, seemingly every year, it failed. Each time, the community simply didn’t want to pay for a community recreation center.
Maybe it’s because residents don’t know the actual value in having such a center.
We have had a bad habit of paying for studies that tell us what we already know, letting those studies collect some dust, and then digging them up 10 years later to illustrate an economic point when a new study needs to be done.
We don’t want another study. We want action. But the actions of some officials in building and maintaining area recreation amenities doesn’t bode well for a recreation center here in Craig. It seems every time there’s a pool built in our community it’s allowed to wallow in disrepair until it’s given a concrete grave. The City of Craig operates the one outdoor pool left that’s open to the public for a portion of the year.
Though our hotels and their staff are nice enough, they won’t be welcoming the public throngs of pool-hungry kids this summer — and parents certainly aren’t going to pay the cost of a hotel room just so their kids can shake off the winter funk with a nice swim in a heated pool. A dip in one of their hot tubs might change some minds, but most Craig residents and visitors will be looking for a free or affordable outing with their kids as the weather warms up.
Many residents may not realize how important a recreation center in Craig will be to attracting such visitors and a new generation of permanent residents to the area. Such a center in Craig will undoubtedly bring in extra revenue by attracting tournaments and other events. A new indoor pool and other sports amenities will have lasting, positive effects on our school sports programs, our seniors’ quality of life and our working adults with children who may be offered child care at the center. A community recreation center in Craig will act as a magnet, drawing in residents from outlying towns bordering Craig.
What residents need is to know whatever tax money raised will be spent wisely and not wasted. Residents need the confidence their recreation center will succeed and our collective investment will be repaid in some way.
Those leading today’s charge for a recreation center taxing district should show residents the hard financial numbers that already exist in area towns with community-funded recreation centers. What is the potential revenue from any taxing district, memberships, tournaments, and other sources, and will that be enough to keep the doors open for future generations?
Is the recreation center in Meeker in the black? What about Delta’s? Show us.
If a recreation center will pass in Craig after years of voters thwarting such a proposal, those pushing hardest for a recreation center in Craig will have to prove to residents there will be a return on their investment. Residents want hard financial assurances and those leading the charge for a recreation center in Craig should give it to them.
What often begins as a hobby to pass the time by creating something appealing to the artist or appealing to the eye, to the ear, something tasty or something — anything, can often flower into a real source of income that can help working families in rural economies like ours.