Next year, the city plans to move the Parks and Rec gymnastics program into a new facility in Bodo Park. It’s currently home to an indoor sports facility called “The Turf,” which has more than 9,000 square feet of open space and even more in a viewing loft for visitors. The one thing it’s missing, though, is plenty of parking./Photo by Jennaye Derge

Moving day

City buys new building in Bodo for gymnastics programs

by Tracy Chamberlin

Next year, city employees plan to pack up the equipment and take the plunge, moving all the gymnastics programs out of the crumbling Mason Center on Third Avenue and into a new building in Bodo Park.

After consultants recommended this summer the city demolish the former elementary school and look for other gymnastics facilities, Durango officials found a building at the southern end of Bodo for $1.1 million.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board expressed support for the move in early November, and the Durango City Council followed suit by voting unanimously to approve the purchase at its meeting Tuesday night.

It’s the first big project to be funded by the Parks and Recreation half-cent sales tax that residents voted to renew in April.

First approved in 1999 and used to build the Rec Center and Animas River Trail, the tax was set to expire in a couple years. But voters decided overwhelmingly to renew the tax for another 20 years.

Gymnastics coach Stephanie Malhmood helps Laurin Padilla practice her tumbling moves at the Mason Center gym. The former elementary school is showing its age and has been recommended for demolition./ Courtesy Photoa

During the Tuesday meeting, City Councilor Sweetie Marbury was excited about the city’s ability to turn to the half-cent tax fund for the project and praised Durango voters for approving it earlier this year.

The City will take $2.1 million out of that fund to put toward the building in Bodo Park: $1.1 million for the purchase and $1 million for renovations. The new facility has more than 9,000 square feet of open space for the gym and even more in a viewing loft for visitors. It’s currently home to an indoor sports facility called The Turf, which offers recreation opportunities and training for local athletes.

The one thing it’s missing, though, is plenty of parking.

The Turf is located at 144 Bodo Drive, tucked between two alleyways just behind the Super 8, and parking spots are hard to come by. It’s something city officials began addressing even before they brought the purchase contract to City Council.

Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said the Parks and Rec Department has been working alongside Community Development, or what used to be the Planning department, to reach out to nearby businesses in Bodo for options.

They currently have commitments from those companies to provide shared and overflow parking. It’s something they’ll include in the process with a Limited Use Permit from Community Development to allow for shared parking at the location.

Metz acknowledged the new building’s location outside the heart of downtown Durango is the one negative. Instead of having a spot at the Mason Center where many residents could walk or bike to, this new one is a drive-to location.

The cost, however, of keeping the gymnastics program at the Mason Center location and rebuilding the facility was about $12 million. “We certainly looked at all the options,” Metz said.

Earlier this year, city officials hired Grand junction consultants the Blythe Group to examine all of Durango’s facilities. From the police station to City Hall, they poured over the functionality, efficiency and overall condition of all the city buildings.

The recommendation for the Mason Center was demolition of the building and the “relocation of the gymnastics program to another more suitable facility,” according to city documents.

As a former elementary school, the Mason Center was never built specifically to be the epicenter for Durango gymnastics. Today, though, it serves as the location for the Parks and Recreation department’s open gym for toddlers, training facility for its competitive teams and location for all the gymnastics classes.

During Tuesday’s Council meeting, Mayor Dean Brookie recalled “a slalom course of buckets” left about to collect rainwater from the building’s leaking roof.

“The facility has outlived its usefulness,” Metz explained.

The city owns both the center and the land it sits on, but it doesn’t have any plans yet on what to do with the property after the move.

Metz said the City will turn to the surrounding neighborhood and community for input on the future of the Mason Center. It could become a new park, open space or other facility. No matter what lies ahead for the center, she said it would remain an asset to the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“The process is a long one to determine what happens,” Brookie said at the meeting.

The city plans to close on the new Bodo building at the end of March. Shortly after, crews will start work on the $1 million renovations. If all goes according to plan, gymnasts could be moving into their new home by the end of next year.