MONTPELIER – The results of a survey on the future of the Montpelier Recreation Center will be discussed at a meeting of City Council Wednesday.
The city must decide whether to renovate the existing facility and make it accessible to people with disabilities. Other proposals include demolishing it and rebuilding, either onsite or at another location, and adding additional facilities, such as an indoor pool.
Built as an armory in 1932, and deeded to the city in 1970, a 2016 appraisal noted “significant physical deterioration and functional obsolescence.”
At the same time, the Montpelier Senior Activity Center across the street is seeking additional capacity to host more classes and activities, and officials have been eyeing the rec center as a potential candidate for additional space.
After First and Fitness closed its Montpelier facility in 2016, a citizen group called Jump and Splash began lobbying last year for a new recreational facility and conducted a public survey to measure public support.
Last year, the city commissioned a $47,500 study by Ballard King & Associates, of Colorado, a recreation consulting firm specializing in recreation and sports feasibility studies.
The firm conducted a similar study for the city of Claremont, New Hampshire, that led to the construction of the Claremont Community Center in 2013, with two indoor pools, a running track, basketball courts and fitness rooms, at a cost of $10 million.
The Montpelier study looked at public demand, cost, likely enrollment and usage of facilities, community willingness to bond for construction, potential sites and interest in a new facility. The study tried to gauge daily and annual attendance, fees and the cost of admission, annual passes, rental costs and memberships that could help offset the cost a new facility or renovating the existing center.
More than 500 residents responded to the rec center study. The results showed that 22 percent of respondents said hey or members of their household used the center, and of those, 36 percent said they used if often (once a week or more), 13 percent used it sometimes (once a month), 49 percent used it rarely, and 2 percent never use it.
In programs offered, 39 percent said they played basketball, 35 percent participated in other programs, 21 percent participated in pickleball and 9 percent participated in indoor soccer.
Asked to rate their satisfaction with the rec center, 94 percent said they were satisfied with its location on Barre Street, 57 percent said they liked the gym and 53 percent said they were satisfied with parking availability.
There was also high satisfaction with operational aspects of the rec center, including instructors (94 percent), customer service (85 percent) and maintenance and cleanliness (83 percent).
Respondents who said they were dissatisfied with the rec center said so because 34 percent said it didn’t offer the recreational spaces or equipment they wanted, 33 percent said it didn’t offer the programs or services they desired and 29 percent said they use other facilities.
Asked whether they would be willing to fund renovations to the rec center, 41 percent indicated they would support a property tax increase and 17 percent said they might be willing to increase property taxes, while 27 percent said they would not support a property tax increase and 15 percent said they weren’t sure.
Asked what kind of amenities and features they would like to see in a new rec center, 84 percent said they wanted a gym for basketball and pickleball, 82 percent wanted multi-purpose rooms for exercise and dance classes and 77 percent said they wanted an indoor pool. The amenities respondents felt are most needed in a new rec center, based on their top three choices, were an indoor pool (48 percent), a gym (38 percent), a weight/cardio equipment area (31 percent) and a group exercise/dance room (23 percent).
Program areas at a new rec center that respondents most supported included (fitness programs (87 percent), after-school programs (82 percent), health and wellness (81 percent), sports (80 percent) and aquatics (79 percent).
Respondents said the most important age groups that could benefit from new rec center facilities were teens 13 to 17 years old (91 percent), families (91 percent), youth aged 6 to 12 years (90 percent) and older adults aged 50 to 62 (88 percent).
Asked how frequently they would use a new rec center, 45 percent said several times a week, 17 percent would use it once a week, 14 percent said a few times a month, 3 percent would use it once a month, 8 percent would use it less than once a month and 13 percent said they would never use it.
Asked about potential funding for a new rec center, 25 percent said they would be willing to accept a property tax increase and 22 percent said they might support a property tax increase, while 34 percent said they would not be willing to see a property tax increase and 19 percent they weren’t sure. Of the 34 percent who were unwilling to see a property tax increase for a new rec center, 31 percent said the main reason was that they needed more information.
Preferred options to pay for rec center members included an annual membership (26 percent) and a monthly membership (23 percent).
Only 13 percent of respondents said the development of a new rec center in Montpelier was a very high priority and 23 percent said it was a high priority while 28 percent said it was a low priority and 29 percent said it was a medium priority.
If there was an indoor pool, respondents said they would most like to have lanes for lap swimming (84 percent), an area for swim lessons (83 percent) and warm water fitness/exercise programs (80 percent). The two top reasons to use a new aquatic center were fitness and exercise (61 percent) and recreational swimming (37 percent).
Asked where respondents currently go for indoor recreation needs, 40 percent used private clubs, 25 percent use the Montpelier Senior Activity Center, 22 percent used private yoga studios, 16 percent used the Montpelier Recreation Center, 14 percent use Montpelier schools, 8 percent use the Central Vermont Civic Center on Gallison Hill Road, 4 percent use college facilities and 14 percent used other facilities.