Should Youth Center move? |

Should Youth Center move?

John Colson

City staffers have begun studying whether it would be best to move the Aspen Youth Center to a new location at either Truscott Place or the planned Iselin Park recreation complex across from the public schools – or to leave it where it is.

Representatives of the Youth Center appeared at the council’s informal brown-bag lunch meeting Monday to ask for city help in relocating to a new facility to be shared with the city’s Junior Golf program.

The Youth Center is currently located in its own building on city-owned land, sandwiched between the Rio Grande Parking Garage and the Pitkin County Jail.

Built with private funds at a cost of $1.4 million about eight years ago, the Youth Center building is owned by its board of directors, but the board is hoping to sell the building to the city and move the center to a different location.

The reason, said one center official, is, “We’re kind of outgrowing our space.”

Jeannie Doremus, the group’s main spokesperson, pointed out that a younger group of users – kids in fourth through eighth grades – now dominates the Youth Center.

“The older kids are feeling pushed out,” she said.

In addition, she said, the center rents out its lower floor to the Aspen Underground restaurant, and its upper space to various groups and organizations who need spacious accommodations for their activities.

That rent, she indicated, makes up a large part of the center’s operating budget.

She also said the center has been drawing more and more kids through its doors every year, and declared, “There’s a lot of programming we just don’t have the space for.”

She explained that, by “joining forces with Junior Golf,” the Youth Center could cut its operating costs somewhat and have more room in a new, larger facility, if one could be included in recreation plans that are part of the Truscott Place expansion project.

A citizen who was at the brown-bag meeting for another purpose chimed in at one point, asking whether anyone had thought of combining the Youth Center with the planned recreation facilities at the city-owned Iselin Park property. The citizen, Andrew Cole, noted that the kids could leave school and cross Maroon Creek Road on the proposed pedestrian overpass and immediately have access to a variety of activities.

“It would be an easy fit there,” he said.

City Council members agreed that either location might pose advantages for the center, but balked at paying all the planning costs to figure out what the next step should be.

Mayor-elect Rachel Richards suggested the Youth Center pay half the costs of figuring out which location would be better suited to a relocation effort, and taking it through the city’s review process.

One Youth Center representative, Sue Smedstead, shook her head repeatedly and whispered loudly to her compatriots, “There’s no money.”

But Doremus agreed to take the issue up with the Youth Center’s board, and to provide the city with a “business plan” and a detailed explanation of why the move is desirable.

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