The New Ute Event Center or no recreation center? A recreation center or no New Ute Event Center?
The best choice for the whole community certainly is to have both facilities. Why is it that some people see it only as either/or?
We have been greeted a couple of times now with the misconception that the New Ute Event Center is directly or indirectly taking funding from the recreation center, that the two projects must necessarily be in conflict. As was pointed out at the Nov. 7 city council meeting, by a council member, the money for the two projects comes from different city funds (or "pots," as he put it.)
What is most startling about the idea that the two ventures are in conflict is that their purposes are so similar. Both the recreation center and the New Ute Event Center (as well as the Brenden Theaters) provide activities in Rifle for which the citizens of Rifle otherwise have to leave town.
The Rifle Parks and Recreation Department is partly funded by a one cent sales tax that the community passed several years ago, which will only benefit from having both the New Ute Event Center and the recreation center functioning and bringing in business. The department also benefits from grant sources available specifically for parks and recreation.
The New Ute Event Center will receive some money from the city capital fund, some from the visitor improvement fund, Downtown Development Authority, Federal Mineral Lease Severance funds, other city sources, as well as several grants, memberships and donations. The very best scenario is that both facilities will be self-sustaining with solid community use and support once they are in place.
The New Ute Theatre Society (NUTS) supports the recreation center and understands the best way to improve funding for parks and recreation, which includes the recreation center, is to have a healthy Rifle economy to produce more sales tax from local activities, instead of sending the population out of town to produce revenue for other communities.
The Sustainable Main Street Initiative recognized the New Ute as a cornerstone for revitalizing the downtown core. How nice it would be for folks from other communities to come here for recreation and/or entertainment, and contributing to Rifle's economy and the sales tax that supports parks and recreation.
It is time to retire the defeatist idea that Rifle is the poor relative of the valley that cannot afford the facilities and amenities that contribute to a vital, healthy community. When the population of the community enjoys its recreation and entertainment right here in Rifle, the economy of the city will only get better. The positive impacts these projects will produce in conjunction with each other should improve the physical, mental, emotional and financial health of Rifle, Colorado.
Elizabeth Stuver is a board member of the New Ute Theatre Society. For information about the events center project, call (970) 414-0834 or go online to utetheater.com. Mailing address is P.O. Box 907, Rifle, CO 81650.