Given time, the ARC can succeed
Ever since it opened in 2003, it seems there’s been bad news coming out of the Aspen Recreation Center, better known as the ARC.There’s the ongoing dispute between the architect and the city about cost overruns and repairs. There’s the fact that parts of the pool weren’t painted correctly, forcing it to be drained and closed for nearly two months while the metal railings are stripped and repainted. And there’s the latest realization that the pool, ice rink and climbing wall aren’t attracting as many users as city planners expected, resulting in a massive revenue shortfall.Amid all that negative chatter, it’s easy to see why many people wouldn’t visit the ARC. But if you can ignore the chatter and wait a few more days for the pool to reopen, there are more than a few positives about the ARC.The pool is a marvel. The climbing wall is cool. There’s a small workout area. The Lewis Ice Arena is a needed addition during the high-demand winter months. The Iselin Park fields are in better shape than ever. And the Youth Center is located within the building. All in all, Aspen has created a fantastic package at the site of the old James E. Moore Pool.City officials overestimated revenues for the ARC. If recreation centers in other mountain towns are any guide, the ARC will always require a subsidy beyond the original estimate of $300,000. But the subsidy can and should drop from next year’s estimate of $882,400.If anything, the ARC needs better marketing and a little more flexibility with its fees. And more importantly, it needs time and patience from the community.How many locals actually understand that the Fun Pass ($380 for an individual, $832 for a family of four Aspenites) is good for access to the ARC, certain activities at the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center, and the tennis courts at the Aspen Golf Club? Probably everyone who bought one, but precious few others.Perhaps opening the ARC for free use on weekends next spring would familiarize more locals with the ARC and attract more customers. Or how about a pool-only entrance fee of $3 for non-pass-holding locals and $8 for visitors? Those lower fees could be applied to other activities at the ARC as well, including ice skating and climbing.By making the facilities accessible to more people, especially working-class families who may not be able to afford both a Fun Pass and a ski pass every year, the city can show people the fantastic aspects of the ARC. At the same time, folks throughout the upper valley should give the city the time it needs to work out the kinks.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.