A proposal to turn the old Clark’s Market space into a fieldhouse for sports and events has intrigued Basalt officials enough to take a deeper look.
The Basalt Town Council informally gave a 5-1 endorsement on Aug. 26 to direct its staff to work with building owner Frank Taverna on a cost-sharing proposal for converting the space as well as lease terms. Most of the council members stressed that while the idea sounds good in theory, their vote depends on how much taxpayers will be asked to pay to lease the space.
Clark’s vacated the 20,000-square-foot space in July. Taverna said he and his partner have approached a list of grocers “as long as your arm” to get a new market established downtown.
“There isn’t anybody that wants to come in,” he said.
On the one hand, competition is stiff in Basalt with Whole Foods and the El Jebel City Market located just 4 miles away. On the other hand, there isn’t a full-scale grocer in the town’s core. Studies by an independent party indicated the town could support a grocery store between 10,000 and 12,000 square feet downtown, Traverna said.
Clark’s officials repeatedly said the building in downtown Basalt simply didn’t work well anymore for a modern grocery store. Taverna acknowledged the old structure has its limitations.
Taverna asked the town to consider a five-year lease on the structure. His floor-plan concept is for two indoor fields of 3,825 square feet each and a third at 2,520 square feet. Despite the low ceiling and structural columns, the fields would provide great space to work on skills when weather doesn’t allow practice outdoors, according to Rod Woelfle, president of the Basalt Soccer Club. The club would use a special ball designed to stay on the ground when using the fieldhouse, he said. That would provide the opportunity to focus on foot skills.
Other sports-oriented uses include lacrosse, batting cages and gymnastics. There could be non-sporting uses like a winter farmers market, movie nights, and arts and crafts, the proposal said.
Taverna’s concept hinges on the town government leasing the space. He said he would provide a lease at a similar rate to what Clark’s was paying, even though that lease was negotiated years ago.
“We’re willing to be partners with the town on this concept,” he said.
The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District would team with the town’s Recreation Department to operate the programs at the facility.
The former grocery-store space is ideal for an indoor recreation facility because it is close to the elementary and middle schools and has plenty of parking, Taverna said.
“It would generate energy and vitality that we need in the downtown,” he said.
Chris Woods, executive director of the Crown Mountain district, told the council he thought the indoor space was worth pursuing.
“It could be a great use of an old building,” he said.
However, Crown Mountain doesn’t have money budgeted to help with operations in 2015, he said.
If the council decides to lease the building, it could be converted within 60 days, Taverna said. He said he and the town staff could come back to the council at its Sept. 9 meeting with answers on costs of conversion, leasing and operating.
Councilman Mark Kittle said he felt the fieldhouse was the wrong kind of facility for a building that is so vital to downtown. His preference is for another grocer. Kittle also favors looking into adding recreational facilities around the existing pool at Arbaney Park and possibly enclosing the amenities.
Other members of the council said they support taking a more detailed look at Taverna’s proposal, but they made no commitments for approving a lease.
“It would generate energy and vitality that we need in the downtown.”