Surveys reveal support for Summit County field house
More people in Summit County support a field house than oppose it, according to two recent surveys.
With prolonged winters leaving the high-elevation, alpine environment snow-locked much of the year, some locals have been calling for an indoor athletics facility — or a field house — to bolster recreational opportunities.
Summit High School recently completed construction of its own indoor athletics facility, but the one now being talked about in an intergovernmental partnership featuring three towns and the county would primarily be for club, youth and adult sports that are unaffiliated with the school.
A new field house would help keep up with population growth and remains essential for sports clubs trying to compete against teams from more temperate climates with longer practice seasons, said Juli Rathke, who believes the community is just now “uncovering the potential” of what it could do for the county. And she’s not the only one.
In a scientifically valid survey done by mail, 48 percent of respondents reported they would support the development of a new indoor sports complex with the right amenities, opposed to only 31 percent against it. At the same time, 21 percent said they do not know.
Opponents have noted that 70 percent of residents who responded to the survey reported that their indoor recreational needs are currently being met most or all of the time.
On the other side, proponents might argue that only 11 percent of respondents said their needs were being met “all the time.” Plus, even with 59 percent saying their needs are met most of the time, that still leaves almost one in three people feeling like their needs are not being met.
The second survey, which was done online and open to anyone who wanted to weigh in, found a higher degree of support for a field house at 71 percent of respondents, compared to only 14 percent against and 15 percent unsure.
But that wasn’t everything the surveys said.
They found the most commonly used recreation facilities in the county are the Silverthorne and Breckenridge recreation centers, and the most oft-wanted amenities in a field house would be a full-size turf field, running track, climbing wall and limited space for hard courts.
“I gathered that we really don’t need to be looking at the most grandiose facility that we can provide with all of the bells and whistles,” said Summit County Community Development director Jim Curnutte, responding to a question about his takeaways from the surveys.
The surveys showed county residents have little taste to drive more than 30 minutes to an indoor athletics facility or fund such a project through a property tax initiative. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they would rather pay for it through a lodging tax, but Curnutte said he thinks that could be a tough sell within the business community. Paying for an indoor athletic facility through a public-private partnership also scored high in the survey, and almost half of respondents said they could support creating a special recreation district to fund such a complex. If such a facility is built, it’s highly likely user fees will be one of the mechanisms to produce ongoing funding.
The surveys were part of the first phase of the overarching field house needs assessment study, and phase one also included a background review, stakeholder input and a market analysis.
In an intergovernmental partnership, Summit County, Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne have all agreed to pony up $9,500 each to pay for the second and third phases of the study.
Those two phases will run simultaneously and drill down into details on the design, construction and operating costs, along with potential locations and building programming.
The lone town out, Dillon, is still interested in the results of the needs assessment, said Kerstin Anderson, the town’s marketing and communications director.
She explained that because Dillon is a smaller municipality with less money to spend, its elected officials have to make “tough choices” about what the town can support monetarily.
That doesn’t mean Dillon is out of the conversation, Anderson added. The town will be keeping an eye on the field house discussion to gauge Dillon’s involvement going forward and how such a facility might dovetail into other town initiatives focused on health and recreation.
There’s no set timeline for when the entire feasibility study will be complete, but Curnutte said he expects the results in the next three or four months.
“Sometime by the spring, we should have all the information we need to decide if we’re going to move forward or not,” he said.
For Rathke, the sky is the limit for a field house in Summit County, and once phases two and three are complete, she said more potential user groups should come out in support of it.
“I look forward to the next stage, getting user groups and clubs more involved and having their voices heard,” she said.
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