Who will pay the tab for the new Youth Center? | AspenTimes.com

Who will pay the tab for the new Youth Center?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

With the Aspen Youth Center facing a huge increase in costs to operate in the new Aspen Recreation Center, the City Council is wondering if swimmers and skaters ought to help fund the youth facility?s operation.

Two swimming pools, an ice rink, a climbing wall and a new youth center will all be part of the recreation complex that is scheduled to open next spring at Iselin Park.

The council scrutinized next year?s $1.8 million operating budget for the ARC, as the recreation center will be known, and the proposed user fees for the facility during a work session Tuesday. The proposed pass rates and daily fees to use the pools and ice rink are already on the high side, compared to what some other area mountain resorts are charging, leaving the council hesitant to bump them up further.

The fees for out-of-town visitors were the exception. Daily fees for non-residents had been set at $9.25 for children, youths and senior citizens and $11.25 for adults. The council quickly hiked them to $10 and $12, respectively.

?We need to bump that up,? said Councilman Tom McCabe. ?This is a bargain now. We can raise the fees and it will still be a bargain.?

Tourists can still send their kids to the ARC for far less than it would cost to pay a babysitter, noted Councilman Tim Semrau.

A separate rate structure has been proposed for Aspen residents and Roaring Fork Valley residents, including daily fees and prices for a 20-punch pass, six-month pass and annual pass for children, youths, adults and seniors.

The proposed daily rates for Aspenites is $5.50 for children, youths and seniors, and $8.50 for adults. The annual pass would cost $231 for children and seniors, $380 for youths and $832 for adults, offering unlimited use of the facility.

Boosting the daily fees by 25 cents and corresponding rate hikes for all of the passes would generate roughly $54,000 for the youth center, according to Tim Anderson, recreation director. The idea is to charge just one fee for use of the ARC, including the youth center.

Although the Aspen Youth Center is a separately funded, nonprofit organization, it won?t seem that way to ARC users, who won?t expect to pay a second fee to enter the door at the youth center after they?ve already paid at the recreation center?s front desk, Anderson said.

?I don?t think guests, and perhaps even local people, are going to understand, because we?re in the same building, that we?re a separately funded program,? said Sue Smedstead, treasurer for the youth center.

Even with the additional $54,000 from ARC fees, the youth center will still face the need to raise substantial additional money to staff a vastly expanded operation, she said.

The existing center at the Rio Grande Plaza is open weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and costs about $180,000 a year to operate. The new center will cost an estimated $485,000 a year to staff all day, seven days a week, Smedstead said.

?We?ve got huge challenges,? she said.

The new youth center plans to open at 8 a.m. at the latest and stay open until 10 p.m. It may open as early as 6 or 6:30 a.m. if there is a demand from parents who want to drop kids off before school. The ARC is located across Maroon Creek Road from the Aspen schools complex; youth center and city officials anticipate the ARC will attract youngsters all day long and into the evening.

Council members said they want a look at the youth center?s budget before they agree to tack a surcharge onto the ARC fees.

Mayor Helen Klanderud wondered if ARC users should pay extra so parents can have a convenient place to deposit their kids.

?Why should a senior pay for someone who?s using the youth center as day care? I think we have to be careful about who we?re charging for this,? she said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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