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Group to discuss recreation center

Where to put the facitility and how to pay for it under debate

Christina M. Currie

Moffat County residents could get a combination recreation and convention center if they’re willing to pay for it, but right now the question isn’t about cost, it’s about location.

And, a decision needs to be made fast. The recreation center steering committee plans to go before voters in April 2003 to request funding for the center. How it will be funded has not been determined although grant funds will be used and requesting a sales tax increase or a use tax has been discussed.

Steering committee members must choose between building a recreation center on property acquired by Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig for future expansion or renovating the building Country General recently vacated. The difference could mean millions of dollars.

Preliminary estimates show a new recreation center could cost around $12 to $13 million, according to steering committee members.

Mayor Dave DeRose said renovating the Country General building could result in more square footage for half the price, but right now committee members aren’t looking at cost, they’re considering the pros and cons of each site.

The Country General building, located at 2355 W. Victory Way, sits on 6.25 acres. There is a possibility of acquiring an additional two acres near the site for a total of 8.25 acres. CNCC Vice President Dean Hollenbeck said the college might be willing to donate 12 to 15 acres of its nearly 100-acre expansion site located on Moffat County Road 7 across from Shadow Mountain trailer court.

“You might not get to choose which of those acres,” he said.

Having a recreation center on its property would help the community college integrate a physical education program into its curriculum and would give the college more leverage when it asks the state for construction money.

The problem, Hollenbeck said, is that the state has put a freeze on all funds for higher education construction, which could go on for years. That means the recreation center could be the only building located on the site for years to come and the benefit of using shared infrastructure, such as parking lots, may not be realized for some time.

In addition, before building a recreation center on the college property, a master plan would have to be created to determine where all the college buildings will be located on the site. That could be difficult, Hollenbeck said, because college officials aren’t sure at this time what the new campus will offer.

Though Hollenbeck prefers the center be built on the college’s property, he said the college would participate in the project no matter where the center is located.

The Moffat County School District will also participate. The racing pool at Moffat County High School is nearing the end of its life span, and school officials would rather use a community pool for high school activities than incur the cost to remodel and maintain its own pool.

The committee has visited with architects who say they would prefer to use the CNCC property because of the number of acres allowed and the potential for architectural freedom to design a building with character.

“What we got from the community during the (Parks and Recreation Department]) master plan process was two things. They want to do it right and they want a recreation center with ambiance and character a facility that stirs emotion,” said Mike Strunk, project manager with DHM Design Corporation.

DeRose, a proponent of using the existing building, said renovations could improve the appearance of the old Country General site, therefore, improve a major entrance into the city. In addition, if the Country General building is not used now, he said it is unlikely any other business would have a use for a 44,000 square foot building, leaving it vacant and deteriorating. It is also fairly prominent, which the CNCC site is not.

Using the existing Country General building and adding a building on each side would make the recreation center 88,000 square feet, 40,000 of which would be a combination conference center, ball room and stage.

DeRose estimates the cost of renovation to be around $6 million.

“To be honest, we can’t build an 88,000-square-foot facility from the ground up at this price,” DeRose said. “It will have to be a lot smaller if we use the CNCC site.”

Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton, disagreed.

“We could spend more money making (the Country General building) into what you want than you would starting from scratch,” he said.

Hampton said he wanted a “spectacular facility” that was “exciting when you walk in.”

Duane Crawmer, architect with Barker Rinker Seacat of Denver, said he could turn the old Country General building into a spectacular-looking recreation center with enough money.

DeRose believes the building has potential and can be renovated into a nice-looking recreation center faster and for less money.

Before choosing a site, Crawmer said, committee members need to decide what they want that center to include. He believes that to save money, a convention center might have to be left out and added on in the future.

According to plans DeRose made, using the Country General site would allow the center to have three full-size basketball courts and two to three racquetball courts. The plans also show a climbing wall, a live fire and air pistol shooting range, a weight room, an aerobic room, an indoor walking track, a full-length racing pool, a therapy pool, a kid’s pool, sauna and a steam room. In addition, the facility would have rooms for offices, meeting rooms, a gift shop, a large kitchen and child care.

The one thing his design is lacking, which Strunk said was one of the most important, is a front desk.


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