By Jeffrey V. Smith
It’s been a long, bumpy road, but the newly renovated and expanded recreation center in Idaho Springs opened its doors to the public in August. A temporary center set up in the Clear Creek School District Administration Building worked well, but everyone is happy to be in what is now known as the Sampler Mill Recreation Center.
Clear Creek Recreation District voters approved a ballot issue November 2013 to raise the property tax mill levy to pay for the renovation and expansion of the recreation center in Idaho Springs. Use of the center, built in 1990, increased by 60 percent between 1997 and 2012. The district started a master planning process in 2011 to see what features the community wanted, and despite some struggles with the construction budget, the expansion comes through on most of them.
“The new facility has been phenomenal, everybody loves it, and our business has been higher than it’s ever been,” Recreation Center Manager Laura Allen said. “We are always busy, we always have to have full staff on. Our numbers are just outstanding.”
The old building was more than 20 years old, so it needed a lot of maintenance and a lot of upkeep. “Some things were just falling down. The pool needed a lot of updating,” Allen said. “After 20 years of water running through pipes, things just started to fail. At the same time, we wanted to upgrade our facility and be current with the times. So, we came up with the idea that maybe it would be better to just renovate the whole building.” Everything has been upgraded and all of the new equipment is energy efficient right down to the light bulbs.
The renovation, designed by Essenza Architecture, replaced aged mechanical systems in the pool and constructed a zero-depth entry pool with spray features, water slides, lazy river, hot tub and sauna. There is now an indoor walking/jogging track, basketball court, and improved fitness facilities at the center including all new weight room equipment, two new group fitness rooms, a gymnasium and more. The new space also allows the Before and After School Care program to be moved into the facility. Along the way, roof-top sun deck, catering kitchen, multiple meeting areas, and massage rooms had to be eliminated to reduce costs.
“We had to go to the tax payers to ask for a mill levy, and it’s a five-year mill levy where we asked for 7.5 million dollars,” Allen explained. “We will pay it back in five years. The voters past it, so that’s how the construction was done.” When the board first submitted the original plans, however, they came in higher than the approved amount. “We just had to downsize a little. The basement was going to be larger, a few rooms were going to be larger, we just had to scale back. We still have all the amenities that we said we were going to have, just not quiet to the scale that we thought we were originally going to have it.”
Before going to the voters, the board made the decision to keep the recreation center where it had been for two decades rather than find property that would allow for a larger building. “I think it was the easiest,” Allen said. “We already had a great property, we are very accessible… that’s what the taxpayers chose in 1989; it was where they wanted the center built.”
The new facility is named for The Sampler mill, which was located on the land where the rec center was built. It burned to the ground in the 1980s. “That was about the time the rec district was being formed, and this was one of the properties that was available to build the original rec center,” Allen explained. “When we rebuilt the renovated rec center, we were trying to come up with a new name for the building and still give it historical value. That’s where the name came from. We are still the Clear Creek Metro Recreation District, but the rec center building itself is called Sampler Mill.”
The Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District was formed in 1979 to “enhance the park and recreation amenities that would be available to Clear Creek County residents and to provide facilities that were beyond the capabilities of the individual cities and towns.” The district covers most of Clear Creek County including Idaho Springs, Georgetown, Silver Plume and Empire.
The Board is working on updating its master plan and have ideas on parks and trails according to Allen. “But, the goal of the rec center in the next 5-10 years, will to be sustainable on our own without relying on the mine dollars,” she said. Stop in the new center anytime for a tour of the new features. Not only is the facility and its new equipment high quality, their rates are very affordable. “Our fees are competitive and cheap for the rec centers around.”
Originally published in the October 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly