Community Support Cannabis tax revenue helps funds for new recreation center in Aurora

On May 9, Aurora’s Central Recreation Center opened and became the city’s first new recreation facility to open in more than 40 years. The brand new, state-of-the-art recreation center cost $34 million and was paid for using Aurora’s recreational cannabis tax revenue.

The facility spans 62,000 square feet and will serve the local community in many unique ways. First, it boasts a wave pool, lap pool, a lazy river and water slide. It also features six basketball hoops, a full fitness center with top-of-the-line equipment, and it offers programs in swimming, martial arts, gymnastics and drop-in fitness classes. There are multi-purpose rooms available for rent and a kitchen for education and teaching. A variety of day camps, after school programs and senior activities will also be available for local residents to enjoy.

Superintendent of Marketing & Special Events for the Parks, Recreation and Open Space department, Erin O’Neill, told CULTURE that the community has shown an abundance of appreciation in response to the new recreation center. “The facility has been bursting at the seams with patrons utilizing the amenities and aweing over the design and integrated art elements. A large portion of the design process for this facility was through public input from the beginning,” O’Neill told CULTURE. “We hosted three public input meetings with over 200 in attendance, at each [the public] provided their thoughts on the design, amenities and programming the center could potentially feature. For most of the community, this completed facility is [how] they imagined it throughout that process.” Although not everyone is in favor of Amendment 64, O’Neill said that there wasn’t any pushback from the community.

Aurora’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department originally purchased the land in 1998 with plans to eventually build a recreation center. Recreational cannabis became legal in Colorado in January 2014, and the Aurora City Council commissioned the project in 2015, allocating a certain amount of the cannabis tax revenue for the department to be used for a one-time only, single-use project, according to O’Neill. Since cannabis businesses in Aurora only sell recreational cannabis, the city was able to acquire the funds quickly from their 20-some dispensaries.

The Recreation Fund receives funding from The General Fund’s subsidies and participant fees, states the Executive Summary from Aurora’s Budget Department. Jackie Ehmann, Finance and Budget Program Manager of the Finance Department for the city of Aurora commented on the process of cannabis fund management. “City staff work to propose each annual budget, in accordance with Council direction, goals and objectives,” she said. “At the annual Budget Workshop, Council makes final adjustments to the proposed budget which is subsequently adopted by Council. Use of the marijuana funding is a different process and is decided upon by Council at the Budget Workshop. The budget is a team effort and is always an interesting process.”

“We hosted three public input meetings with over 200 in attendance, at each [the public] provided their thoughts on the design, amenities and programming the center could potentially feature.”

 

According to the summary, the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department will receive four percent of the total budget, for example. In regards to the Marijuana Tax Revenue Fund, expenditures in 2019 amount to $9.6 million and will cover, “the $2.0 million debt for the new Central Recreation Center, the $4.0 million debt for road projects, $250,000 for medians, and $3.4 million for homeless services and housing projects,” states the city manager’s proposed budget for 2019.

The Central Recreation Center is open to anyone in Colorado who wants to join. It will provide hours of entertainment and education to residents of the local area, and is a great example of how cannabis sales can help boost the economy and provide for the community. Visit auroragov.org to review membership fees, programs and schedules.

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