Rec center fits with vision for the valley

The success of Fruita’s Community Center leaves many Grand Junction residents wondering why they don’t have a similar amenity of their own.

A grassroots organization called People for Local Activities and Community Enrichment (PLACE) is in the midst of a multi-pronged effort to bring a community center to Grand Junction.

They’re attempting to collect 1,000 signatures from residents to show the community is invested in the idea. Organizers plan to present these signatures to the Grand Junction City Council in January. They’re also gathering survey results about what people want in a center and applying for grants to fund a feasibility study.

The group wants to work as closely with the city as possible. But the council is divided on the issue. Some are ardent supporters. Others are philosophically supportive, but sensitive to financial issues. For those facing re-election in the spring, support of the community center idea is certain to become a campaign issue.

The idea of a community center is nothing new. PLACE committee members estimate this is the fourth or fifth time in the past 40 years that a movement has galvanized behind the idea. Voter-approved efforts to build community centers in Fruita and Montrose and the demise of the Life Center’s gym have created momentum for a city-supported community center in Grand Junction.

Without the specifics of a price tag, location and funding mechanism, it’s too soon to say whether this is a good idea. But we’re supportive of the bottom-up strategy to make this a priority. City Council has taken its lumps for supporting The Avalon and the Las Colonias amphitheater. It’s fair for council members to ask residents to step up and prove demand for this project.

Whether that happens, a community center fits in with a strategy to make the community more marketable to young entrepreneurs and millennial families. It’s another piece to complement a framework of amenities that enhance the livability factor in the Grand Valley, which could help with business development, expansion and retention.

Fruita has paved the way with a shining example of how such a center could benefit the community. It brings several services under one roof — a senior center, a library branch, a workout area, a gymnasium and a pool. It’s used often enough to pay for itself and generate enough revenues for upgrades.

Supporters will have to show that a community center with a recreation component won’t be detrimental to private enterprise. While it’s true that a community center fosters programming and a sense of community that fitness centers can’t, it’s competition nevertheless.

For now, we’re glad to see an effort underway to explore the benefits and the cost of adding a potentially valuable asset.


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