Aspen: A recreation center for the masses
Judging by the 225,000 people who walk through the doors of Aspen Recreation Center every year, the facility clearly has filled a community need.
Now in its fifth year of operation, the $18 million facility has become just as popular among locals as it has for tourists, said Tim Anderson, director of the ARC.
“The out-of-town guest is a huge market for us, accounting for 20 percent of the revenue,” he said. “The visiting families love the ARC as an alternative. They think it’s a great family escape.”
Parents often lounge around in the ARC’s lobby while their children take advantage of the leisure pool, lazy river and 42-foot tall water slide, or the 32-foot tall climbing tower, or the NHL-sized Lewis Ice Arena.
But those amenities only scratch the surface of what’s available at the ARC, which opened in April of 2003.
The fitness facilities include cardio and weight rooms, and space for spin, karate, pilates and yoga classes, to name a few. The ARC also has a 25-yard lap pool, diving board, steam room, sauna and jacuzzi.
Lap lanes are open to the public most hours of the day and the ice arena is open year-round with ample public skating time, Anderson said.
City-run formal programming revolves around the ARC’s amenities with lessons, classes and camps throughout the year. Several user groups also take advantage of the facilities for drop-in events and unorganized pick-up games like water polo, Anderson said.
Aspen High School uses the ARC for its swim and hockey teams. Before the ARC was built, AHS had no swim team. Just last week, the high school swimmers were recognized by the City Council for their achievements. And the AHS hockey team won their first state championship last year.
Families from around the state come to Aspen every autumn for the Fall Face Off annual hockey tournament, using the ARC’s Lewis Ice Arena.
“It’s estimated as a $1 million economic impact for town,” Anderson said of the hockey enthusiasts who come to Aspen during offseason.
The ARC was designed to be a recreation center that serves the entire Roaring Fork Valley. And that goal appears to have been achieved. Anderson said most rec centers around the state experience a tapering off of visitors after a few years of being open but that’s not the case for the ARC.
“We have grown every single year we’ve been open,” Anderson said.
The ARC’s operating costs this year are about $2.25 million and its revenues are $1.4 million. The rest is subsidized by the city of Aspen.
Fees to use the 83,000-square-foot facility are increased annually to meet inflation, Anderson said.
New to the ARC will be an outdoor pool and two hot tubs, which are currently being designed. A detailed plan is expected to be reviewed by the Aspen City Council on Tuesday, May 20. Once approved, Anderson expects crews to break ground this fall with an anticipated opening the middle of next summer.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.