Will Summit County support a field house?
September 9, 2018
A handful of Summit County citizens are emerging as advocates for an indoor athletics facility — also called a field house — that they say would be a great benefit for a wide range of players.
The timing of the latest push for a field house comes as an intergovernmental group comprised of the county and towns of Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne is gathering information about the need, programming, feasibility, funding options and possible locations for such a facility.
A scientific survey is being mailed out to a random sample of county voters with plans for an open-ended survey to follow, allowing anyone with an opinion on a field house the chance to offer comment.
Some of the proponents, however, worry too many people won't fully understand what's at stake in the discussions and that, without wide-ranging community support, the effort could fail before it's been fully vetted by the community.
"We're concerned there hasn't been enough conversation about the reasons," said Juli Rathke, a local parent who's helping organize a grassroots campaign in support of a field house and creating the website, Summit4FieldHouse.com, in support of the cause.
As she and some other proponents are promoting the concept, they're trying to ask at least one question they think is paramount to the field house conversation: What do your children do from 4-9 p.m., after the sun has gone down and ski lifts have stopped running, during Summit's snow-locked winters?
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"Kids could have more opportunity if they had more space available," Rathke said. "We have the longest winter season, really, of anyone in the state of Colorado."
With that, Rathke and other supporters are hoping to gain momentum and numbers. They see each different user group for a field house as a potential ally and hope they'll join the cause.
"You talk about all the clubs, Team Summit — everybody is looking for additional space," Rathke said. Many local activities often struggle to land practice time, including but not limited to youth and club football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, lacrosse and rugby. She's also thinking of the gymnasts, freestyle skiers and freestyle snowboarders who have to travel to fine-tune their skills.
At this point, any ideas for what a Summit County field house might contain are purely conceptual. Still, advocates envision an all-encompassing facility like the one in Edwards that's large enough for a full-sized turf field on one side and multi-purpose areas for amenities like foam pits and weight training on the other side.
They hope such a facility would be organized to allow for youth and adult programming alike, much like how ice time at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena is managed.
Summit County Judge Edward J. Casias is one person who's heavily involved with youth sports, including youth basketball and club lacrosse, and he can see a pressing need for such a field house. Speaking as a parent, the judge called the idea "a great opportunity" to alleviate what he described as "the pinch" plaguing youth sports across Summit County.
"The reason I say that is we don't have any place for youth sports to practice over the winter," Casias said, adding that it's been a major struggle finding the space for the athletics programs currently offered in Summit County, let alone any kind of expanded programming.
Andrea Rosenthal, executive director of the High Country Soccer Association, a local group that offers soccer to more than 750 children every year, also said a field house could be a real game-changer for the county.
"The change would be tremendous," she said while describing the same scenario Casias did, in which program organizers are often left without adequate field time and no place to go. She also thinks that with expanded facilities, the High Country Soccer Association could expand its programs, including the adult leagues.
"There's a gap that we can't fill at this current time, and it would be for the benefit of everybody," she said of a field house. "It would truly widen the draw we have to bring people into this community and keep them here."
A local business owner, Shervin Rashidi, also volunteers his time with youth sports, having coached youth football and baseball teams, in addition to various other sports.
"We just need a field house," he said matter-of-factly, echoing many of the same statements Rathke, Casias and Rosenthal offered. "There's just so much need for a year-round facility for athletics in general."
"Year-round" is the same word that rang loud with Peter Haynes, president of the Summit Nordic Ski Club. That's because Haynes helps run an all-season program that appeals to a wide range of athletes, from beginners all the way up to international Nordic skiing competitors.
Of course, it would depend on what form a field house takes, Haynes said, but provided it comes with multi-purpose offerings like some advocates have described, he believes the Nordic program could find a field house extremely helpful too, especially during the summer months when the Nordic skiers are focused on indoor training.
For the concept of a field house to become reality, it'll need land and funding, both to cover construction costs and the ongoing operational costs.
If one of the jurisdictions agreed to put up the necessary land, discussions could quickly turn to funding. Proponents believe the constructions costs could range in the ballpark of $20-25 million. The most likely way to pay for it could be through a mill levy, possibly imposed on a special recreation district that targets the people most likely to support and benefit from a field house.
They think a property tax could be framed in such a way that homeowners would barely notice the difference, if at all, much like the sales tax for workforce housing that hits shoppers for 6 cents for every $10 spent. After that, supporters hope fees from the user groups would cover the ongoing operational costs.