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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of March 12 - 18, 2003


Summit held on recreation centers issue

Groups work toward compromise on needs

Express Staff Writer

Following a large gathering of the Wood River Valley’s parks and recreation proponents last Thursday, Blaine County Recreation District officials said a positive new direction had been forged for planning valley-wide recreation facilities.

"I don’t think we could have asked for any results better than what we got, which was everybody being able to voice their concerns and questions," said Blaine County Recreation District Executive Director Mary Austin Crofts.

Following the four-hour meeting at the Blaine County Senior Center in Hailey, stakeholders—including the Wood River Community YMCA, Hailey Ice Park, 5B Sports Center, the Church of the Big Wood, a new Hailey-based development called Copper Ranch and the county Recreation District—agreed to meet again to work toward facilities that compliment, rather than compete, with each other.

"This is just the first meeting," Austin Crofts said. "As we work through the process, as we look for the needs and where the holes are, there can be lots of working together. I think there’s still lots to talk about."

A follow-up meeting is tentatively scheduled for April 17 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Kentwood Lodge in Ketchum.

In part, the next meeting will be used to ask the question: "Is it realistic to have each group go out and do their own thing?" said Dave Keir, Recreation District marketing specialist.

For several months, the recreation facilities discussion has focused on two proposed facilities, one in Ketchum and one in Hailey, but the Recreation District meeting shifted additional players into the limelight.

Advocates for the Hailey Ice Park said they would like to build a refrigerated ice skating and hockey rink in Hailey in time for next winter. The $590,000 needed to pull it off could result from a spring fundraising campaign.

Representatives for The Club at Copper Ranch, a Hailey-based private recreation facility, said they wish to supply recreation to the community at affordable rates. Initiation fees for the swimming, tennis and workout facilities would cost between $100 and $350. Monthly dues would cost $40 to $120.

"We’re looking forward to working with other groups in the community," said Copper Ranch representative Jeff Smith.

Representatives for the 5B Sports Center said the Wood River Valley could support north- and south-based facilities.

"We feel very clearly that Hailey is the nexus of the health and the growth of the Wood River Valley," said 5B representative Sam Kory. "This is not a zero-sum game. Everyone in this room can be successful. No one has to take anything away from anything else."

Reamy Goodwin, chairman of the 5B group, said he envisions a facility including ice, rodeo, activity, daycare, gym and wellness facilities. The facility would cost $8 million, and fees would be $1 per day.

Though the 5B group has eyed the Hailey rodeo grounds as a potential site, the city of Hailey has not given the group the necessary green light.

"We’re concerned about all the interest in our land," said Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant.

Wood River YMCA (formerly Janss Center) representatives said they had divided their proposal for Ketchum’s park and ride lot into two phases, the second consisting of a $5 million to $6 million indoor ice sheet.

The first phase would cost $7 million to $8 million and would include a gymnasium, pool and workout facilities. To a certain extent, the group is redesigning its architectural and financial plans to reflect its recent merger with the YMCA and a recent agreement with the city of Ketchum.

"We’re committed to the project we’ve got on the books right now," said Wood River YMCA board member Tom Praggastis. "We do intend to move forward on that (first) phase of the project immediately.

"We’ve come to the table fully prepared to cooperate and collaborate."

Finally, the Recreation District has some plans of its own to make use of the old Wood River High School in Hailey.

Its "Community Campus" project is 70 percent to 80 percent funded and could open in the fall of this year. The facility will include a gym, gymnastics, lockers and classrooms, Austin Crofts said.

According to a 2001 Recreation Needs Survey compiled by the Recreation District, Hailey was the clear preference for new recreation facilities for almost all types of recreation, except for motorized trails.


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