Community recreation center initiative to appear on April 4 ballotJan 27, 2023 11:21AM ● By Terri Benson
After decades of talk, the pieces are finally coming together for a new Grand Junction Community Recreation Center.
The initiative will once again appear on the ballot for the April 4 municipal elections, requesting that voters approve a 0.14% sales tax increase which, along with the already approved cannabis tax, will fund the revised plan to build an 83,000 square-foot facility at Matchett Park.
The proposed tax increase is significantly less than the 0.39% hike that was presented to voters for a 98,000 square-foot recreation center in 2019. Though the measure was unsuccessful, city officials conducted numerous surveys and listened to voter feedback at forums and focus groups about what should be done differently.
“What they heard was, ‘Yes, we want it, but it needs to cost less to build, keep tax increases low and doesn’t need to be the Taj Mahal,’” said Sue Springer, a volunteer with the Grand Junction Community Recreation Center Campaign.
The Right Time
A recreation center was included in Grand Junction Parks and Recreation’s 2014 Master Plan; however, voters prioritized local needs in elections, including a first responder tax, road improvements and a new Grand Junction High School.
In 2021, they approved a cannabis tax to help fund parks and recreation facilities, trails and open space. This indicated they were ready to revisit the recreation center discussion.
The Right Plan
The total project cost for the recreation center is $70 million, which includes everything from roads and sewers to fixtures and furniture. It will also require $5.8 million in annual revenue to maintain.
“Because Grand Junction has a high percentage of tourists and out-of-area visitors, 70% of the sales tax collected will come from people outside the city, leaving residents to pay only 30 cents on the dollar of construction costs,” said Andreya Krieves, the recreation center campaign’s co-chair.
She added that it will be less of a financial hit for locals because of the already-approved cannabis sales tax which, along with membership fees, will pay for ongoing maintenance and expenses. Financed construction costs will be paid back with no pre-payment penalty if the recreation center’s income is greater than anticipated.
Krieves said the project appears to be sized conservatively when you consider the size of Montrose’s 80,000-square-foot recreation center and compare the town’s population of 20,600 to Grand Junction’s 67,000. By comparison, the proposed tax increase for the Grand Junction rec center is less than half of the .3% increase that voters passed in 2014 to fund the Montrose Recreation Center, and is even less than the 1% increase used to fund the recreation centers in both Fruita and Delta.
“It’s crazy that Grand Junction, the population hub for the Western Slope, doesn’t have a rec center but much smaller communities like Delta and Cortez do,” said Sue Springer, a member of the community recreation center campaign committee.
Additionally, the proposed increase will expire in 30 years, or when the bond is paid off.
Sales tax doesn’t apply to medicine, gas or food, so older adults on fixed incomes don’t need to worry about an increase in these necessary expenses.
The Right Place
The recreation center will be built at Matchett Park, an undeveloped 205-acre parcel at 28 ½ and Patterson Roads.
The city-owned park was chosen based on responses from city-wide surveys expressing the recreation center be centrally located, easy to access and serviced by Grand Valley Transit.
MapQuest lists drive time of less than 15 minutes from the Redlands (corner of South Camp and South Broadway), 21 Road and Highway 6&50, and Palisade. It’s also less than 10 minutes from Grand Junction Regional Airport and City Market on Orchard Mesa, and less than five minutes from 32 Road and I-70B in Clifton.
The ballot proposal is only for construction of the recreation center near Patterson Road, not a full build-out of the 200+-acre park. The Grand Valley Parks & Recreation Foundation will apply for grants to enhance the park facilities or pay off the bond early, however, most grants and funding sources will expect the community to have “skin in the game” and approval of this ballot item will prove that.
How this will affect seniors
The recreation center is being built by the City of Grand Junction, but all Mesa County residents will have access.
“This project will create a legacy for the community and will positively impact everyone from seniors down to infants,” said Springer.
When planning the rec center, city officials responded to seniors’ needs for a warm-water therapy pool, pickleball courts and lounge/gathering space. Additionally, there will be space for larger parties, group exercise classes, a lap pool and more.
When newcomers Dale and Bill Gates moved to Grand Junction last year, they were disappointed to find no community center.
“We hoped to find indoor recreational activities for ourselves as well as our grandchildren,” said Dale. “We’re in our late 70s and are always on the lookout for ways to stay active.”
Visitors can purchase walk-in and day passes, and locals are able to purchase affordable annual memberships. Drafted daily admission fees are: $5 for local youth (age 3-17), $8 for local adults (age 18-59), and $6 for local seniors (age 60+). Annual passes are $20 for youth, $40 for adults, $22 for seniors, $68 for a family and $52 for a couple. Those with Silver Sneakers memberships may be admitted for free.
“The only thing missing in our beautiful Grand Valley is a community recreation center,” said Mariann Taigman, 60. “Currently, there is only one year-round indoor pool with the Orchard Mesa Community Pool, so having a community recreation center in addition would greatly enhance our ever growing community.”
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