Letter: ARC investment is for the community good
October 21, 2013
ARC investment is for the community good
I read with interest the latest diatribe from Elizabeth Milias' Red Ant blog — which I believe is ill-informed and/or designed to inflame — about the Aspen Recreation Center.
Friends of the Aspen Sports and Recreation Complex, or SPARC, is a nonprofit that entered into a public/private partnership to help build the ARC in 2001.
SPARC's private donations contributed $7.4 million to the project, and as part of the SPARC-city deal, SPARC required the city to do a business plan on the ARC every 10 years.
Ms. Milias, the city is honoring its obligation. This business plan is being done with an eye to improve operations, to improve service, to learn what our customers and community want and to determine what, if any, would be appropriate facility or operational improvements to make, given community and visitor demand and costs.
SPARC is proud of our efforts to help the city take a more professional, disciplined and analytical approach to operating and managing this facility — a goal I would have thought would please Milias.
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Aspen's economy is based largely on recreation, and therefore investments in recreation (unlike most places) can have positive economic impacts. We encourage the city to analyze not just the costs of a recreation-based project but also the economic benefits that may accrue to the community resulting from increased visitors, tax dollars, return visits and other economic benefits.
Milias references the "public subsidy" but fails to recognize not only the community benefits but also the positive economic benefits that the ARC has brought to the community, which are significant.
Finally, Aspen is an amazing place. We are fortunate to have many very generous, wealthy community members willing to contribute private money to public improvements — thank you. Most of the conversations about improvements at the ARC have been around analyzing preliminary private offers of capital, not necessarily a "major infusion of (taxpayer) money," as Milias suggests.
And for the record, the city has been very thorough and practical in making sure that any possible gift be analyzed on ongoing operational obligations and making it clear that this is a major component of any offer.
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