As much as $1 million was approved by the Aspen City Council on Tuesday for the renovation of Wagner Park, which according to preliminary plans, will be closed from early July until June 2015.
Parks Director Jeff Woods said during the work session that the short-term loss will result in long-term gain, creating a more resilient field for the next 30 years. Construction, which is expected to take six weeks, will include installation of a new irrigation and electrical system. The $1 million expense also includes the $337,000 purchase of 32,000 square feet of flooring technology designed to protect the field during events like June’s Food & Wine Classic.
Mayor Steve Skadron asked his fellow council members how they felt about the park being closed from July until September, the peak summer season. Both the MotherLode Volleyball Classic and Ruggerfest will be affected this year, but it was the USA Pro Challenge that Skadron expressed concern for, asking the council if it wants the Good Year blimp filming Wagner Park under construction.
Woods said his department had worked out the most ideal timeline for the project, though he said construction could be moved up to Aug. 1. He added that there hasn’t been a major fix at Wagner Park since at least 1997, when he started working for the department.
In the end, the council agreed that the work needs to be done, and it needs to be done this summer. Councilman Dwayne Romero suggested pushing construction back a year, but councilwoman Ann Mullins argued that the problems at Wagner Park will only worsen. Councilman Adam Frisch said the closure of the park will cause some heartburn in the community, but it is better to deal with it in 2014 than 2015.
“They’re going to get riled up in two months, or they’re going to get riled up in 16 months. Let’s just get it over with,” Frisch said. “If I thought there was a huge amount of community benefit by waiting — by giving people 14 more months to complain versus two months to complain. ... I think we should get going.”
Scott Chism, of the Parks Department, said it’s possible that parts of the field will be open to the public in the fall.
The flooring technology — which Romero called a no-brainer — consists of 30,000 square feet of Terratile flooring and 2,000 square feet of Terratrak Plus vehicular flooring. The interlocking equipment, which has a 10- to 15-year lifespan, potentially could pay back initial investment through a rental program. When the city is not using the flooring, the vendor would market and rent the equipment to others. As owner of the equipment, the city receives a portion of rental income, while the vendor manages, cleans, transports and stores the flooring and retains the majority of rental income.
City Manager Steve Barwick said that if the flooring improves the health of the field, the city will look to purchase more in the future.
According to Chism, the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., which purchased the same flooring technology eight years ago, has seen a 100 percent return on investment and now is profiting from rentals.
Skadron asked that community outreach begin immediately.
“Communication has to start now,” he said. “This is a big deal.”