Parks And Recreation Lays Groundwork For Tomorrow

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A feasibility study compiled by the firm of Ballard King and Associates revealed what most Rim country residents already knew -- our community is in dire need of a new indoor community recreation center.

"It is clear the Payson Parks and Recreation Department does not currently have adequate facilities to provide much more than just the most basic of indoor recreation programs and services," the report states. "Much of what already takes place is in inadequate facilities and relies on the school district's buildings."

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If all goes according to plan, the town of Payson might one day sport a recreational facility similar to the one above, the Freestone Recreation Center in Gilbert.

For the past several years, Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind has spearheaded a drive to build a public recreation center.

Some of the features of the proposed center will be an indoor pool, weight room, aerobics/dance area, locker rooms, walking/jogging track, multi-use gymnasium, senior activity area, kitchen and lounge.

Schwind is convinced the new center will become a reality if the funding to build it can be agreed upon.

The feasibility study identified fund-raising, donations, grants, partnerships and a tax increase as possible sources of funding.

Schwind hopes that if the Payson Event Center ever becomes a money making venture, that profits could be used to fund a recreation center.

Once the center is completed, Schwind estimates that it would generate -- through fees, rentals, admissions and passes -- about 80 percent of its operating capital.

The drive to build the center got off to a jump-start more than a year ago when Schwind and council member Dick Wolfe traveled to Colorado where they participated in a recreational facilities and design seminar. As part of the seminar, the two visited several Denver suburbs that had demographics similar to those of Payson.

In both Thornton and Parker, Colo., Schwind and Wolfe discovered recreation centers that could fill the needs of Payson. Both had indoor pools, full court gymnasiums and other features that have been identified as needed in Payson.

Study continues

In Ballard and King's feasibility report, a market analysis and programming study have been completed.

Currently under way is a participation plan. In it, Payson's indoor recreation needs are being extensively explored.

Next up and the final stage before building the actual center is a site and operations analysis.

Currently, the site preference for the proposed center is Rumsey Park.

Although the recreation center has drawn most of the attention of the parks and recreation department, there are plenty of other projects under way.

At Green Valley Park, public rest rooms on the south side of the lake will be built. Also, a pier expansion is under way to allow easier access for boats and more fishing area.

At Rumsey Park, lighted basketball courts will soon be constructed adjacent to the swimming pool. Lights also are being built on the sand volleyball courts at Rumsey Park.

About a year ago, a second artificial-surface playing field was built near the new library. The field features a state-of-the-art 68,000 square-feet all-weather playing surface.

In August, the field attracted the Arizona State University Sun Devil football team for two practices. Sun Devil coaches decided to practice on the field because the all-weather surface was the same that ASU would be playing on weeks later in the season opener at the University of Nebraska.

The field was built in part by a $390,000 grant obtained by Parks and Rec. Soon, lights will go up on the field giving Payson another venue for nighttime activities.

Also, two ballfields have been built on 23 acres just west of the library. Backstops on both fields have been erected and drainage systems are in place to keep the fields dry during the monsoon season.

Also completed at Rumsey is a $267,00 project that extended the library parking lot to include parking for the new soccer field.

On the agenda for the future is the acquisition of more than 10 acres near the Payson Ranger District offices.

If the acquisition occurs, a forest park or similar facility could be built. Such a park would be more accessible to residents on the East side of Payson and in Star Valley.

In 2006, projections are that the parks and recreation department's primary service area will include almost 28,000 people.

Knowing that, Schwind and his department are staring eye-to-eye at the challenge of meeting the growing needs of Rim country residents.

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