MONTROSE – The Montrose Recreation District board of directors may have failed to get voters’ support for a new recreation center four years ago, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up.
Ken Sherbenou, executive director of the Rec District, said the board appointed a special volunteer task force that has begun meeting to work on a feasibility study for a new facility.
In 2007, voters turned down a request for a mill levy increase to expand the Aquatic Center, the main facility of the district, which was to expand the center by adding a walking track, gym and multi-purpose room.
But there was no feasibility study done at the time, “a critical step,” Sherbenou said, and the hoped-for changes wouldn’t have increased usage that much.
Sherbenou has only been director for only 10 months, he said, but in talking to people about the failed ballot issue, he decided that the proposal back in 2007 was too modest.
“It didn’t offer a whole lot in increased services, and on the financing side, it wouldn’t have generated a whole lot more operational revenue,” he said.
What Sherbenou and the board would like to see is a facility that can draw a wider variety of members and visitors and help pay for itself through increased revenues.
A family recreation center is critical to Montrose, he said, but groundwork must be thorough. Although the 24 members of the Community Rec Center Task Force have only met a few times, they’ve already recommended the hiring of outside consultants, following the model of other towns that have built rec centers.
After issuing a request for proposals, the board and the task force selected Greenplay LLC, a parks, recreation and open space consultant from Broomfield, and Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture of Denver, which specializes in green architecture and designing schools, recreation centers and community centers. One reason for selecting the architecture firm was because it’s already built several recreation centers, in Fruita to Cortez, Sherbenou said.
“It comes down to financing and service, the most critical questions asked in a feasibility study,” he said.
Components to consider in financing a new building should include the amount of operation revenue from fees, the projected operational revenue and operational costs, and to determine the extent the facility could be self-supporting, he said.
“The most common trend in the field of parks and recreation is a one-stop shopping community recreation center with something for everybody,” Sherbenou said. “We want to increase use and increase revenues and be more self-sustaining.”
When the feasibility study is complete, in about six months, the task force and Greenplay will have a detailed study of recreation needs in the community and the data to make a recommendation to the board. The study will also include building designs, site location, and partnerships for possible funding.
The community’s input after the feasibility study is done is also important, Sherbenou said, and a series of public meetings will soon be scheduled and announced at the district’s website at www.montroserec.com.
The website is also a good place to find all that the rec district offers, from tai chi to Friday night summertime dances. Exercise and fitness classes include yoga, karate, zumba, jazzercise, cardio kickboxing, pilates, stroller fitness and seminars in other disciplines.
For the over 50 crowd, the Rec Center sponsors activities at the Senior Center at the Montrose Pavilion, such as Monday Night Excitement with billiards, pinochle, Mexican Train (dominoes), and dancing. Senior Night Out is held on the third Monday of the month, with a potluck dinner, ice cream social, card games, billiards and dancing.
The Friday night dances, from 7 to 9 p.m. for those 16 and older, are held at the Aquatic Center, and include lessons and the chance to dance to a variety of music, including country, ballroom, Latin, swing and salsa. Wellness programs, arts and crafts, free computer training and other weekly programs are also offered to seniors at the Pavilion through the Rec District.
The district also sponsors youth programs in baseball, softball, disc golf, lacross, flag football, basketball, NFL Punt, Pass and Kick, he said, with slow pitch batting cages and instruction for umpires and scorekeepers.
In addition to the coming feasibility study, the board of the Recreation District has other tools to use in determining what the community needs, Sherbenou said, such as a needs assessment survey done several years ago and the district’s master plan, which both identified a rec center as the top priority.
The Rec District is not a division of the city of Montrose, Sherbenou said, but a separate district, and “all options are on the table” as far as the direction the district takes.
“We’re concerned about the size of the current site [of the Aquatic Center] and that’s why we’re bringing in an architect, to look at how big of a footprint [is needed] to offer something for every age and every interest,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to have a public process.”
Another reason for concern is that the Aquatic Center pool is 25 years old, and approaching the end of its shelf life, Sherbenou said.
“That’s another reason why, with each passing year, it is increasingly important that we address this issue of facilities,” he said. “We need either a dramatic renovation or a new building.”
But this time the district doesn’t have its hand out to voters, and is saving money to show good faith. He said that 25 percent of the district’s 2011 budget, about $500,000, has been put into capital reserves for future building projects.
The district has also saved $141,000 in money received from the state lottery, he said.
Another means to decide what Montrose needs is to study other communities, Sherbenou said, and the district had about 15 responses to a survey sent out to other recreation centers in the state.
“They shared their financing mechanisms, how much service increased and what happened to operation revenue once the rec center was built,” he said.
Sherbenou has been talking to local groups for the past three months about the Rec District, sharing information from the district’s annual report, which is available on its website.
One bit of information Sherbenou shares with listeners is that the district is now using an industry standard for measuring use of its facilities and services, called participant days, which showed 130,000 participant days in 2010 for Montrose.
“That’s over 360 people a day served, and right now during the summer, we’re probably serving 600 a day,” he said.