Crown Mountain Park goes to Plan B for indoor facilities in midvalley
The Aspen Times
After determining that building a new fieldhouse in El Jebel would be cost-prohibitive at around $20 million, Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District will explore if largely abandoned buildings at the edge of the park can be salvaged for use.
The recreation district’s board of directors gave the staff a nod last week to have a consultant assess how two buildings could be used and prepare architectural renderings. Once that work is completed, the district will also determine what level of asbestos mitigation must occur, according to Becky Wagner, the district’s executive director.
The list of potential uses includes equipment storage, offices and meeting space for youth and seniors.
“What I would like to see as a board member is for our kids to have a place to go after school instead of them just going home and playing video games in their basement,” Robert Hubbell, a board member, said at Thursday night’s meeting. “Tragic things have happened to good friends of mine and I want us as a community to have a place for our kids to go after school.
“I would love to have a place for our seniors to go during the day,” Hubbell continued. “We need other facilities. I’m not talking a fieldhouse. I’m not talking a rec center. I’m just talking a small, simple facility.”
Tim Power Smith, board chairman, said he would want indoor turf for events such as soccer and indoor batting cages included among the uses.
Looking into use of the buildings on the west end of the park is Plan B. Plan A was looking into a new structure in El Jebel. The district initially hired Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture to estimate the cost of an indoor facility in El Jebel on land potentially available for lease from the Crawford family. Representatives of the recreation district met with the consultant team Oct. 15 to discuss trends in the recreation industry and estimate space requirements.
The architecture firm estimated the cost range between $18.9 million to $25.6 million, based on the programming desired.
“I was extremely disappointed with the analysis that came back,” Hubbell said.
Wagner said the cost estimates were so high that the representatives of the district decided against presenting the results to the whole board.
“We saw the numbers and we were surprised by the numbers,” she said. “At that moment, between us, we said we’re going to hold back and let’s get some more information before presenting it to the board.”
She informed the board about the hefty estimates via email Oct. 24. Meanwhile, the possibility of using the abandoned buildings adjacent to the park became a more viable option.
“I stated, ‘Right now, we’ll be holding off until we know which direction we want to go with the architectural renderings,’” Wagner said. “That’s what the frustration is — we haven’t talked about it since October.”
Barker Rinker Seacat was placed on hold after about $3,700 of an $11,000 contract with the firm was spent exploring the El Jebel fieldhouse, Wagner said. Now the firm will be directed to revive work looking at the existing buildings at the park.
“This would be within the existing budget,” Wagner said. “It wouldn’t be adding anything to it. It’s really just switching the location.”
The buildings are leftovers from when the U.S. Forest Service operated the Mount Sopris Tree Nursery on the site from the 1960s to 1987. After the operation ceased, the Forest Service was negotiating a land swap with a private developer when Pitkin and Eagle counties intervened. After years of negotiations and failed attempts to get legislation approved, a land swap between the feds and the counties finally occurred in 1994. Pitkin County traded 1,258 acres of mining claims and Eagle County added 49 acres.
A large former warehouse has sat vacant since the exchange. A smaller shed has been used for equipment storage. Wagner said the storage building is in “rough shape” while the larger building is in “really good shape” but at risk of deteriorating due to neglect. It needs a roof as soon as possible, she said.
Recent tests also have shown the 1960s buildings have asbestos in drywall, mortar and pipe insulation.
Barker Rinker Seacat will be asked to determine if the building can be salvaged and the larger one put to use as a gathering spot and place for indoor sporting activities. If rehabilitation were feasible, Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District would have to lease the structures from Eagle County.
County Manager Jeff Shroll said renting the larger building seems doable but “we have not had any discussion on lease rate or what terms we would need to consider.” There have only been preliminary discussions so far.
“One of the buildings that is currently being used is in really rough shape and likely could not be rehabbed into anything and may just need to come down,” Shroll wrote in an email to The Aspen Times. “The other building likely could be saved in some fashion and repurposed.”
It hasn’t been determined who would be responsible for the cost of asbestos mitigation and replacing the roof, he said. The building will also need “significant plumbing, electric, HVAC and other improvements” before it can be used, Shroll noted.
“Even with those issues, that may still be appealing to Crown Mountain as it is likely a cheaper way to get some indoor recreation activated than brand new construction,” Shroll wrote.
That’s what Crown Mountain officials believe, as well. Board member Bonnie Scott said it is a “no-brainer” to take advantage of the existing buildings for storage and other uses. Power Smith agreed.
“If it’s more cost effective to fix the assets that are already there, then absolutely I’m in agreement with that,” he said.
In other action taken by the Crown Mountain board of directors, a contract for public relations services from b2 Inc. was unanimously approved.
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