Rifle to fund playground in Centennial Park | PostIndependent.com

Rifle to fund playground in Centennial Park

Ryan Hoffman
Rifle intends to construct phase one of a playground in Centennial Park.The facility would be located directly west of the parking lot off of Fifth Street.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

Families who frequent Rifle’s Centennial Park will likely have an added attraction appealing to younger children this summer.

A long-planned playground in the park, one of the city’s most frequently used recreation facilities, is among several capital parks and recreation projects in the planned 2017 budget. The list also includes conceptual plans for a redesign of the Art Dague Pool, bleachers at Taughenbaugh Field and several other projects.

The playground is budgeted at $375,000, with more than half of that coming from grants and a private donation.

The original master plan for Centennial Park, which first opened in 2005 in celebration of the Rifle’s centennial, always included a playground, said Tom Whitmore, director of the parks and recreation department.

Located along the Rifle Creek Trail between Third and Ninth streets, the open space park boasts an amphitheater, historical features, trails and a splash park in the summer.

Earlier this year the city commissioned a community survey geared toward parks and recreation, and the survey found Centennial Park, which has hosted summer concerts and is the gathering space for the annual July 3 celebration, was Rifle’s most used facility.

Respondents were asked which facilities out of a list of nine that they used in the last year. Of those, 71 percent said Centennial Park, 57 percent said Rifle Mountain Park, 48 percent indicated the Ute Theater, 47 percent said Deerfield Park and 43 percent said the swimming pool.

While a playground was included in the original plans for Centennial, a lack of funding largely pushed the project to the back burner, explained Matt Sturgeon, city manager. That changed late in 2015 when a private donor gave $31,000 to the Rifle Community Foundation for the purpose of constructing a playground in Centennial Park. Design work started and the city was awarded a $135,000 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation, a nonprofit based in Denver, in early 2016.

The city looked for other funding sources to try and start the project in 2016, but it could not come up with the money.

“Now we do have sufficient funds to build the playground,” Sturgeon said.

Aside from other smaller contributions, the bulk of the remaining cost will come from the city’s conservation trust fund, which is funded by state lottery proceeds.

The playground will veer from the original master plan in that it will be located in the southern end of the park, rather than the northern end. The design of Centennial Park is such that the historical markers and design features advance forward in time as one travels north.

The original plan put the playground, intended to reflect the energy boom, in the northern end, according to Whitmore.

While the playground will stick with that theme, it will be located just west of the parking lot off of Fifth Street. The area, which is behind the amphitheater, use to be populated by reeds and weeds. The parks department cleared the area several years ago due to nuisances and other issues.

“We had people stashing stolen goods there and camps …” Whitmore said.

Once the parks and recreation team cleared the brush they found a surprising amount of space, he added. Although it will not be in the originally intended location, the playground “will be a nice addition to Centennial.”

The project is being targeted for sometime between March and June, with a goal of having it open around the time the Centennial splash park opens for the summer.

Bleachers at Taughenbaugh

Another big ticket item proposed in the 2017 parks capital projects is the addition of bleachers at Taughenbaugh Field in Deerfield Park.

The sprawling Deerfield Park in north Rifle features the recently renovated Cooper Field, home of the Rifle Bears baseball team, and Taughenbaugh Field which his home to the Bears softball team.

In 2015 the city completed nearly $1.3 million in renovations to Cooper Field, vastly improving the facility.

“The facilities out there are probably the best on the Western Slope other than Suplizio (Field),” Troy Phillips, Rifle High School athletic director and head softball coach, said of the revamped field. Suplizio Field is home to the annual National Junior College World Series.

The hope would be to do similar work at Taughenbaugh starting with the bleachers.

“We take a lot of pride in hosting Rifle softball and baseball,” Whitmore said.

The bleachers are expected seat around 298 and be elevated much like the bleachers at Cooper. The same company that did the Cooper project has already submitted a proposal for the Taughenbaugh bleachers, which are expected to run around $80,000. That money would likely come from the city’s parks capital, conservation trust and parkland dedication funds, although Whitmore said there are several grant opportunities that will likely be pursued.

The project is being targeted for sometime between March and June.

“We’re lucky we have a city that supports our programs like our city does,” Phillips said.

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