Adventure park taking shape
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council has given the town’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) the official “go ahead” to continue pursuing two public/private partnerships aimed at providing an economic boost to the community.
On Tuesday, May 19 the council approved two recent actions by the DDA. The first was the ratification of DDA’s new top development priority, which for quite some time has been building an aquatic recreation center near the ski area base. Earlier this month the DDA board decided to put the development of a large performing arts facility at the top of the list. While the aquatic center remains number two on the list, the DDA determined that such a facility would be too difficult to finance in the current economy. The DDA is working on a partnership with the Crested Butte Music Festival to complete the performing arts facility project.
The council also ratified an amendment to the DDA’s 2009 budget, reflecting the group’s decision to contribute $450,000 to the construction of Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s proposed adventure park.
Town manager Joe Fitzpatrick said a current lack of development within the DDA’s boundaries was hindering the DDA’s ability to finance the proposed $14 million recreation center. Additionally, the town asked voters last fall to consider a mil levy increase to boost the town’s revenues and provide additional cash to subsidize the recreation center’s operational costs. The mil levy issue was ultimately rejected by voters, leaving the town with a much tighter budget in 2009. Between those two issues, Fitzpatrick said the recreation center “just wasn’t going to happen.”
Fitzpatrick said the performing arts facility was a more realistic project and would also complement CBMR’s meeting and conference business traffic.
Mayor William Buck noted that in addition to performing arts, the facility is meant to be a community gathering place. He said there was a list of more than 20 groups that might be interested in using the facility, and the list was still growing.
The council approved the DDA’s new priority.
The council also appointed two people to serve on a committee to keep the performing arts project moving forward. Buck volunteered to serve on the committee, and said he was aware of the partnership from the beginning and knew all the details.
Council members Andrew Gitin and Wendy Fisher also volunteered to be on the committee, but Fisher said she might have some time constraints this summer, so Gitin was selected as the second committee member. The committee also has three representatives from the Crested Butte Music Festival and two members from the DDA.
Lastly, the council had to ratify the DDA’s amended budget.
Fitzpatrick said CBMR’s proposed adventure park would help stimulate Mt. Crested Butte’s economy. In addition to the bungee trampolines, climbing wall and tubing hill, Fitzpatrick said, the synthetic ice skating rink was a unique feature. “It will give us a product not too many other folks have at their base areas,” he said.
Fitzpatrick explained that the town will get 15 percent of the gross revenues from adventure park ticket sales for four years, as well as a boost to the town’s admission tax funds.
He said the DDA budget originally had $500,000 set aside for the construction and design of the aquatic recreation center project. Most of those funds would need to be redirected toward the adventure park.
“The DDA board felt very strongly that contributing to this project was a good use of the funds to help stimulate the economy, get people to stay in the base area and help support local businesses, restaurants, retail shops and lodging,” Fitzpatrick said.
Town attorney Rod Landwehr said even under optimistic projections, there would be little chance that CBMR would be able to pay the DDA back within four years. “Maybe the DDA doesn’t even expect payback?” he asked
Fitzpatrick said, “The DDA’s objective was to get back at least 50 percent of their investment.”
Landwehr asked if the facility might disappear after four years.
Buck said the DDA was trying to keep the option to extend the lease agreement past four years, and get an obligation from CBMR to provide an alternative site if the proposed Cimarron project moves forward. CBMR vice president of sales and marketing Darren Cole said the company was already breaking ground on the project and they were getting ready to secure the park equipment. CBMR is buying the synthetic ice rink from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which used the facility to complement an exhibit on green power and sustainability.
Cole said in addition to the rink, CBMR is also getting a 15-feet-tall statue of a polar bear that was part of the museum exhibit, which caused a few chuckles among the council.
The council approved the DDA’s new budget. The adventure park is scheduled to open on July 4.