Sweeping Up

Broomfield was a beneficiary of the Internet boom as thousands moved into the area to take advantage of a burgeoning Silicon-Valley like valley between Denver and Boulder.

Though the boom busted, the thousands generally stayed to enjoy the climate, the views and the proximity to world-class skiing and recreation.

In addition to steady housing development, the city and county of Broomfield also welcomed to its midst a shopopolis called FlatIron Crossing.

These tax-dollar-generating giants helped the city realize its goal of building a new recreation center to supplement its 29-year-old center and to better serve the traditionally far-flung, yet now almost heart-of-the-city developments within Broomfield's borders.

First to Last

Broomfield's Paul Derda Recreation Center opened in November of last year. With a price tag of around $21 million, citizens streamed in, and still stream in, to see the city's tax dollars at work.

The center features a leisure pool with slides, zero-depth interactive features, a toddler area, and a lazy river. There's also lap swimming and diving boards, plus two hot tubs -- one for adults and one for families.

Broomfield's director of recreation services, Bob Prince, says they decided not to build a steamer sauna based on feedback from other recreation centers who said the saunas create more monitoring and maintenance.

Racquetball courts were also nixed from the lineup for two reasons. One was a private club that had extensive racquetball courts (which has since gone out of business), and the cost and relatively slim return for the square footage the courts eat up.

"The only piece that had any big conversation or debate was whether to build a warm water or cold water pool. The council was in favor of a warm-water pool, but we also have serious lap swimmers and swim teams who want a cold lap pool," says Prince.

"We didn't have a leisure pool, so we wanted to and decided to build a warm-water leisure pool. A project in our future is to build an indoor coldwater pool and an outdoor pool."

Prince says that it was decided early on that the center would spend more than the usual per square foot, but make sure to spend that money as wisely as possible and to spend it consistently throughout the facility. In other words, each component of the center would receive equal and quality treatment.

"You have to look at what you're trying to present to the public when they walk in the door. Is it a simple brick building or a private club look? How many dollars per square foot do you want to spend? There are centers that are beautiful in the front lobby, but once you get past that you can see the decrease in the dollar per square foot," says Prince.

"Our community is very active and we wanted to show them a great facility, so we felt it should have a consistent look throughout the facility. You have to get the pulse of your community and see what's already available. We didn't build a large basketball gym, for example, because there are a lot of courts in the city."

The center also includes a walking/running track, a weight room, two cardiovascular areas, two studios, a basketball/volleyball gym, a gymnastics center, an indoor playground, an early learning center licensed by the state, a game room for teenagers with various free video and table games, three party rooms and a giant climbing wall that greets visitors in the foyer.

"The climbing wall has exceeded our highest expectations in its use; we're just packed every day," says Prince. The climbing wall is generally supervised and programmed, though if you can verify certification you can use it unsupervised at specific times of the day.

The variety of activities is a potent draw for birthday parties. The center typically hosts five or six per day on the weekend. There are also a couple of inflatables available for an extra fee.

The birthday parties and other special events are a fringe benefit. The amenities fit the community's active lifestyle, and Prince says that seniors have been one of the more active groups, whether they're on the cardio equipment, on the track or even on the climbing wall.

The center runs two programs with HMOs that allow participants at Kaiser Permanente and PacifiCare to use the center for free. The HMOs pay the center for the usage fee, and are amenable to the program because they're seeking the benefit of preventative fitness.

Prince says running a facility this size with this much programming simply wouldn't be possible without an automated registration, point-of-sale, pass management, facility management and reporting system.

It streamlines, provides accountability, tracks trends and, perhaps most importantly, provides raw data to the city council to show measurable success as the city looks toward building a third facility in the near future.

"There are too many things people need to know about, and things that you want to brag about," says Prince.

Fine Tuning

Thanks to diligent research on the front end (Prince says they toured 20-30 recreation centers) and a solid design there have been no huge surprises.

For instance, Prince says they decided early on to have a narrow entrance, which makes sneaking in more difficult and overall entry control easier.

Still, says Prince, during heavy use times they'll set front desk people up as Wal-Mart-style greeters, which serves the two-fold purpose of customer service and discourages would-be turnstile jumpers.

Fortunately, the emphasis has been on making adjustments, which is far better than having to renovate programs, procedures or facilities.

One adjustment that needed little adjustment was the center's daily pass policy. Some parents and grandparents complained that they weren't actually using the center; just watching the children in their care.

After discussing the issue, the center's staff decided to maintain its policy, but will have special days -- like parent's day -- where various guardians will get a free pass.

The center's indoor playground has been hugely popular. Its popularity caused another adjustment where the maximum usage age began at 12, went down to 10 and finally to seven.

Prince says it really boils down to user education. He says a surprising number of people have never used a similar facility, or held a membership at a fitness club.

Then, those who have had memberships don't necessarily understand the difference between the membership they held at a private club, versus the simple annual pass the center offers.

"You find out that many people have never been in a building like this, so they need to learn what they can and can't do. We do a lot of tours and take a lot of comments," explains Prince.

"For instance, we don't open up our studios for free use because of liability. You have to do certain things to protect your clientele and to let them know that it's the reasoning behind your policies. That's one of the issues we talk about at every staff meeting."