Prepare to take the plunge

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Shimmering blue pools, a mountain scene and aspen trees that never lose their striking fall foliage will greet swimmers at the new Aspen Recreation Center, unveiled for a media tour on Monday.

And though visitors probably won’t notice it, the center will be “green” as well.

The ARC, as it’s called, won’t open for another two months or so, and workers are still busy erecting components and applying finishing touches all over the 82,460-square-foot building at Iselin Park.

The room containing two new swimming pools, however, is close to complete, and its final appearance is easy to visualize.

A handful of golden aspens dot the stonelike deck (the tree trunks are real, the branches and leaves are fabricated) around the leisure pool and six-lane lap pool. A mural of a mountain lake with snow-capped peaks dominates the far wall, next to the lap pool. The rest of the room is painted in a light blue/purple hue called “magic blue.”

The mural, by Canadian artist Gary Sawatzky of Adventure Designs Ltd., was inspired by the views on Independence Pass but is not an attempt to replicate any actual scene, according to Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.

“I knew the minute he started painting something real, people would start picking it apart,” he said.

A contractor anxious to have the firm’s work on display at the Aspen facility put in the pool deck for about $10,000, though it would normally have cost about $50,000, Sadler said.

Adventure Design’s mural, trees and rock work in the pool area cost about $50,000, or roughly half the usual price, he said.

Still to come is a 1-meter diving board to be installed on the 11-foot end of the lap pool. Spray features, water jets and a twisting, two-story water slide are ready to go in the leisure pool, which will also feature a current called a “lazy river.” A gentle slope has been created so toddlers will have a place to wade in beach-style.

Fabricated boulders separate the ins and outs of the irregularly shaped leisure pool.

Also part of the pool complex will be a Jacuzzi, redwood sauna and tile steam room.

Nine sliding-glass doors in the pool room can be opened to the outside in the summer months, leading to an outdoor deck with lounge chairs and tables. The outdoor area is ringed by a rock wall created by the excavation for the building. It is also the site for a third planned, but as yet unbudgeted, pool.

The ARC is scheduled to open in late March or early April, after staffers are trained and the city has conducted some test runs, during which city staffers and others will be invited to take a dip and test out the other facilities in the building.

The NHL-sized ice rink, however, will debut about two weeks behind the rest of the ARC, according to Sadler.

Many in the business community will get their first peek at the new facility on Thursday, when the Aspen Chamber Resort Association hosts a Business After Hours gathering there for its members. Citizens who have already been treated to a tour, however, have been impressed, according to Sadler.

“It’s a lot classier, I think, than most people expected,” he said.

Sadler, of course, has his own opinion: “It’s gorgeous.”

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, who previously toured the ARC.

City Councilman Terry Paulson, who joined yesterday’s tour, was impressed. He admits he had reservations when the ARC was nothing more than sketches and blueprints.

“It’s better than what you see on paper,” he said.

@ATD Sub heds:Stepping inside

@ATD body copy: Visitors to the ARC will come through the main entrance, an atrium-style area that actually accesses the third floor of the building. The new 6,500-square-foot Aspen Youth Center, with space for dances, hanging out, video games and computer hookups, has windows that overlook both the pools and the rink on the opposite side of the complex.

From that level, a spiral staircase wraps around a roughly 32-foot climbing tower. Large windows on the outer side of the staircase overlook the rink.

The middle level includes the lobby area, snack bar, access to the locker/shower rooms for the pools and the pools themselves, as well as the seating area above the rink.

A new pedestrian bridge, to be installed next month, will link the Aspen schools campus across Maroon Creek Road to the ARC. Users of that path will enter directly into the midlevel lobby area.

The lowest level contains mechanical rooms, the ice rink floor, rink locker rooms and team rooms.

Both the pools and rink will have three locker rooms each – one for men, one for women and one coed room to serve, for example, parents with young children of the opposite gender.

“You can go to men’s, women’s or in-between,” Sadler said.

At this point, the rink remains a concrete floor. Ice will be made next month, he said. Also still to come in the rink are the boards and bench-style seating for 450 people. Three tiers of benches will line one side of the rink, above the ice, with room for additional seating above it.

Also part of the ARC is a two-bedroom housing unit, allowing a Recreation Department staffer to keep a full-time eye on the facility. The occupant of the home has not yet been identified, Sadler said.

The $19.2 million ARC, which includes $17.6 million in actual construction costs, has been under construction for about 18 months. The Aspen Youth Center paid for its portion of the building, and the rink is being financed by a recently completed fund drive that raised $8.6 million, including $8 million for actual construction. Public monies are funding the rest.

@ATD Sub heds:Making it ‘green’

@ATD body copy: In keeping with the City Council’s directive to make the ARC energy efficient and environmentally friendly, the city has budgeted $280,000 and so far spent $165,623 on mechanical components and other features designed to make the building “green.”

The efforts to date will keep an estimated 6,012 tons of carbon dioxide, a so-called “greenhouse gas” and contributor to global warming, out of the air. The annual energy savings from the green systems will amount to an estimated $34,520.

The ARC features high-efficiency boilers to heat the pools and building interior, and a turbine that will produce electricity on-site by burning natural gas. Heat recovered from the turbine exhaust and waste heat from the ice plant will go toward heating the pools.

The roof has been outfitted for the future installation of solar panels, which can be added after the building has been in operation and its energy needs are better defined.

The exterior of the building, too, incorporates a green feature. The pool end of the building is painted green. Other parts of the exterior feature rusted, corrugated steel, an architectural style inspired by Aspen’s mining days. The city saved on the cost of creating the rusty patina, by the way, by doing it in-house with Lemon Joy, a dish-washing detergent, according to Sadler.

He had no guess on how much detergent the job required.

The pools and Jacuzzi contain a total of 793,600 gallons of water, but the bill won’t break the bank. The city doesn’t pay for water at its own facilities, Sadler said.

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