Roger Marolt: Roger This |

Roger Marolt: Roger This

Roger Marolt
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

If you build world-class facilities, when the world goes to the crapper maybe your facilities go with it.

This revelation came to me while I was nursing an awful case of spring fever. I was hoping to get the bicycle out for the first ride of the season, but there is still a lot of gravel on the sides of the roads along with an occasional ice patch, and drivers aren’t expecting to have to share the road this early, so I concluded that it wasn’t safe to do something this healthy. I decided to work instead, reasoning that making a buck nowadays is harder than doing wind sprints so it must be all that much better for me.

As fortune would have it, an old buddy called while I was at my desk. He is one of those nuts that enjoys training hard so he can run and ride faster, and when he’s not doing that he teaches people to run and ride faster so he has somebody to compete against.

As if he’d read my mind, he suggested that the best way to get in shape for riding was running (go figure), and the best place to start running is out at the school track. He said I would be surprised. He said “good luck” and hung up.

So, not having gone for a run in, oh, 14 or 15 years now, I decided that very afternoon would be a good day to take a little jog. I gathered up some old Dolphin shorts, a satin tank top, a pair of Forest Gump Nikes and headed for the track.

My friend was right, too. I was surprised. The old cork track that used to be the pride of the Western Slope back in the day; the surface on which some of Aspen High’s best athletes prepare their bodies for greatness; the hometown path to glory for many outstanding runners who train on it while calling Aspen home, looked like the Snowmass ski area overflow parking lot behind the rodeo grounds on a muddy spring day.

Of course this formerly world-class track circles our currently world-class artificial turf athletic field that must be plowed in order to take advantage of its amazing attributes during the spring sports season. In the process of clearing the field, huge chunks of the track were ripped up, and what is left of the six-lane oval is gouged, pitted and torn. Judging by the condition of that track, I am going to make a wild guess that there will be no track meets held at Aspen High School anytime soon. Maybe they could have dirt bike races on it instead, in which contestants expect to go home afterward with compound ankle fractures and lacerated foreheads.

I am also going to make the bold prediction that our track is not going to be repaired anytime soon. How do I know? Well, after a complex study of the facts I have come to the conclusion that nobody has any money. The school district is just able to keep classrooms functioning. Aspen Education Foundation is running on fumes. The city of Aspen is depending on parents to keep the doors open on its in-town ice rink this summer. The ranks of wealthy private donors willing and able to pitch in are thinner than the track’s surface on the final turn.

We are tapped out! We completely ran out of a good economy before we could accumulate reserves to keep all of our fancy facilities operational. But, let’s not waste too much time lamenting what might have been. The truth is that squirreling away money for repairs and maintenance has never been sexy, no matter how prosperous our finances.

You want to build a state-of-the-art clubhouse for the ski club with a private lift to the training hill? Hell yes we do! Where do I make the pledge? You want to construct a hockey arena that will rival the Pepsi Center? Damn straight we do! Who do I make the check out to? How about creating the best athletic field that money can buy? Yeah! With lights? Oh Yeah!! How about Olympic-quality equipment for the Red Brick Gym? Great!!! How about adding a few miles to our vast network of bike trails? You bet!!!! A bicycle bridge two hundred feet above Maroon Creek? Wa-hooo!!!! Anyone for building an Olympic caliber 90-meter ski jump on the face of Aspen Mountain? Yes, yes, yes!!!!!!!

Alright then, how about setting up a reserve fund to keep all this stuff functioning? … I said, how about let’s set aside some money for when we have to repair and maintain this stuff? Can you hear me in the back? Is anyone out there? Come on now, will somebody please turn the lights back on?

You get the point. Nobody is ever going to pay big bucks to have the naming rights for a line item on a balance sheet: “The Geraldine Gotrocks Maintenance Reserve Fund.” There is no glory in that. Even boards of directors don’t pay attention to the financial statements.

So, you say it’s only the high school track we’re talking about. Some would argue that it’s only the beginning. Anybody else notice that the pool temperatures at the ARC seem to be a little cooler lately? And, it’s not just our athletic facilities that are getting older, you know. We need to worry about all the other amenities we’ve erected as monuments to the glory of Aspen, as well. The hospital, library, schools, employee housing ” it’s all going to need to be overhauled sooner than you think.

Maybe it is just the old track that nobody cares about anymore. On the other hand, if this is the onset of local, world-class facility triage, we had better start lobbying to have our own favorite facilities preserved before somebody else’s gets what little funding is left.

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