On PointVincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes his On Point column most weekdays. He is also an author and freelance writer. Reach Vincent Carroll at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
Carroll: Doors half closed
A friend who served on a Denver Parks and Recreation advisory panel once quipped that the city’s rec centers set their hours mainly to serve the needs of their own staff — and maybe the neighborhood unemployed.
To appreciate what inspired his joke, you need only go to the city’s Web site and check out rec center hours.
The first thing you’ll notice is that of the city’s more than two dozen rec centers, only three open at all on Sunday, each for just a few hours.
Holidays? Forget it. The centers are not only closed on big family occasions such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, but on eight other holidays, too (you read that right), including a few that most workers in the private sector don’t even get.
But the Saturday schedules are the shocker. Not only are several rec centers also closed on Saturday, but almost all of the rest post sharply abbreviated hours. Four, five and six hours of service are common, and most centers lock their doors by mid-afternoon.
If your job involves a standard weekday schedule, your best shot at finding a nearby Denver rec center open is the evenings, when many facilities do operate late enough to be of use.
Given these relatively skimpy hours, I was all set to fulminate against Parks and Recreation for proposing further schedule cutbacks (mainly in the morning) at 11 centers — until I reached spokeswoman Jill McGranahan. She tells me that the hours would be lopped off not to save money so much as to reflect underuse of the facilities during those times.
Why open a center at 10 a.m. if only one guy wanders in to lift weights during the first hour or so?
But if saving money isn’t the driving motive in what amounts to a trim of 4 percent of all rec center hours, why not shift some of those lost hours to the weekend — either at the centers facing cutbacks or to others that enjoy higher traffic? Rec center employees might prefer a Monday through Friday routine, but the facilities exist first and foremost for the convenience of the taxpaying public.
Speaking of rec centers, Denver voters are being asked this fall to approve $21.4 million in bonds for two new facilities — or, more precisely, for the construction of one center at Stapleton and for the planning, design and acquisition of land for another somewhere near downtown.
These would be large, “regional” centers, drawing visitors from many neighborhoods, similar to what several suburbs already enjoy.
It’s an attractive idea (assuming you buy the idea of local government providing a service that the private sector is quite willing to supply — but let’s save that debate for another day). If Denver is going to embark on a long-term program of building mega-rec centers, however, it would be nice to hear that officials are committed to closing a number of small, dated facilities at the same time.
There’s a reason, after all, that 11 rec centers can’t draw enough visitors in the morning to justify their current operations. And as larger centers open, some older facilities will be even more hard put to justify their survival.
Vincent Carroll is editor of the editorial pages. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
I have an idea, auction off the rec centers to the private sector which will actually staff and open them when the public wants to use them, not when the public employees want to work. These public slugs have better hours than doctors. Why? Because government is there for the benefit of the government employees, not the taxpayers.Posted by Hogar De Vuelta (العودة) on October 2, 2007 10:28 AM
Hogar asshole, you have better hours then doctors.
Do you want to come with me to deliver a baby at 3AM?
Schmuck!Posted by on October 2, 2007 11:07 AM
I use to live in Northwest Denver and the public rec centers are a huge joke!Posted by SlouchingtowardBoulder on October 2, 2007 04:02 PM
Come on people. I have been a member at DAC, CAC and Inverness since moving to Denver. I shudder to think what I've paid in dues over the years. There is simply no better bargain on the market than the public rec centers. In this case, the private sector is charging 10 to 25 times as much as their counterparts in the public sector. You can't tell me that having the rec centers open for a few more hours a day would be worth that enormous extra cost.Posted by jay on October 2, 2007 09:23 PM
There are several nice rec centers that have good equipment and reasonable hours of opperation. The majority of rec centers are small, poorly equiped with little space. Jay, mentions that he has spent lots of money for dues to some of the premier athletic clubs in the area, fine, enjoy, but don't equate those facilities with what Denver Parks and Rec. offers. Only a few of Denver's rec centers are worth even the basic yearly dues.Posted by Darin on October 4, 2007 05:43 AM
Do tell Darin...which ones in the Denver metro are "poorly equipped with little space"...thus making them "not worth" the extremely low yearly dues.Posted by jay on October 4, 2007 08:38 AM