News & Media

Aurora Deserves New Recreation Centers - Vote YES on 301!

October 9, 2011  |  Your Hub - DenverPost  |  Link to article

The Aurora Residents for Recreation Task Force (ARR) has met all of its goals since its inception when City Council passed an authorizing resolution on November 17, 2008.  In 2009 the requirements set forth in that mandate for the completion of a community needs assessment for recreation services and facilities were met on time and under budget.  Aurora City Council responded by entrusting the ARR with conducting feasibility studies in 2010 to identify what facilities were needed to address community needs.  With the help of OLC Designs, the architecture firm that designed the Trails Recreation Center, Infinity Park in Glendale and many other world class recreation facilities, and the consulting expertise of Ken Ballard of Ballard*King and Associates, feasibility and operational consultants for numerous successful recreation programs throughout the U.S., the ARR devised and recommended a system of facilities.  This proposed solution of indoor recreation infrastructure is designed to accomplish the following:

  • Bring Aurora into the 21st Century no new indoor facilities have been added to Auroras system since 1980, when the Aurora Senior Center was built and the population (158,000) was less than one half of what it is today (325,000).  Aurora has one public gymnasium at Beck.  Aurora has two indoor pools (Utah Pool and Beck Pool) to serve 325,000 residents.  Community needs are not being met.
  • Place facilities strategically across the city to allow accessibility to the greatest number of residents.
  • Create facilities that are economically sustainable.  The financial model utilized is based on successful operations around the region and country.  The proposed operations are founded on fair, market-based fee revenue models that will afford Aurora residents an exceptional value while assuring that users pay for the benefits they receive.
  • Place Aurora in a position of advantage for economic development.  21stcentury businesses want quality of life when they search for locations for startup, expansion or relocation.  The same is true for many families.  Aurora currently ranks lowest in the region for indoor recreation facility space for residents, 0.44 square feet per capita vs. 1.7 square feet for a per person average across the Front Range.  
  • Produce a reasonable funding mechanism shared by the community that fairly distributes costs.  High end users will pay more in memberships, class and lesson fees.  Non-users will pay just the modest property tax.  At $2.75 in property tax per $100,000 in home value per month at the start of the levy (as Aurora grows and the total value of property in the city increases, actual property tax costs will decrease accordingly), all property owners can expect a decreased cost over time along with a potential (presumptive many argue) increase in property value resulting from improved community amenities.
  • Provide residents with quality indoor recreation amenities that they want.  The ARR focused the entire community needs assessment and feasibility study processes on addressing the needs of our residents.
  • Equip Auroras youth with the safe places and beneficial programs that will contribute to their ability to become successful.  The only teen center (free to enter, violence free, drug free, etc.) that exists in Aurora is Moorhead, at 25th and Havana.  The proposed system has two additional dedicated teen and youth areas plus program space for greatly expanded opportunities across the city.
  • Keep Aurora residents in Aurora rather than make them leave to obtain quality indoor recreation facilities that cost much more (paying non-resident admission fees usually 25% higher -- and incurring travel costs, etc.).  With general fund revenues predominantly based on sales tax, the city will benefit from not only keeping its residents in town, but attracting visitors (customers for our local businesses) from other communities.  All facilities have been designed to be capable of housing various tournaments and events that will attract new economic activity to Aurora, aiding in bolstering the declining sales tax revenue base.
  • Benefit all sectors of the community.  As our population ages, resources are needed to provide our active adults and seniors with the activities to support physical, cognitive and social health.  Obesity in all age groups is on the rise in our region, state and nation.  Though clearly not the single solution to addressing obesity and the many related chronic diseases, access to facilities does play a part.
  • Address the misconceived notion that somehow the public school gyms and other recreational facilities built for public school use can somehow be utilized to meet community needs.  Use of school facilities is imperative to delivering services to the community and Aurora uses the schools heavily for that purpose.  However, this resource is tapped as competing uses constantly struggle for access.  The schools (students and Aurora residents) would benefit from the additional facilities and existing partnerships can be maximized further.

There are many more advantages that a community can gain from having an infrastructure like the one proposed.  The key to the energy behind this movement is that people support it in large numbers.  Throughout the course of the public engagement that has occurred on this topic, from public meetings that probably attracted only those interested in the subject, to presentations to random groups, to the 14,000+ who signed the petition to place the initiative on the ballot, public support has been remarkable.  In fact, 44,000 Aurora residents voted in the last municipal election in 2009.  14,000 is 31% of the total votes cast in 2009.  Furthermore, petitioners consistently reported that the number of individuals actually declining to sign the petition was extremely low (about 1 in 10).