No matter how bad I might wish for a magic formula for transforming downtowns, I’ve searched the vault, and just like good old Heraldo Rivera discovered, it was empty. The more I learn about successful downtowns the more I believe that downtowns are more art than science. But don’t let that fool you, art isn’t about some starving artist moment of inspiration, and neither is downtown revitalization. Art is built on a foundation of solid principles and practices, and today’s creative expression is a result of all that came before it — the same with downtowns. Ok, ok, enough with the arts analogies what I really intended to talk about was how cities have used recreation facilities to spur downtown revitalizations to make downtowns active both figuratively and literally.
For some time Kent has had the prospect of a new Wellness facility on the planning board. When I first arrived here 2 years ago Parks and Rec was close to sealing a deal with Summa Health systems to build a joint facility off of 261 near the Golden Crossings living center. That didn’t work out so we’re sort of back to the drawing board. I say sort of because land was purchased years ago on Fairchild Avenue (where the ballfields are) with the intent of someday serving as the site for a new City Wellness Facility.
There’s certainly a lot of merit to that site but seeing how some other cities have used these types of centers to rejuvenate both people and downtowns I keep wishing we’d find a spot for it downtown. See what you think.
Sports revive downtown, Ogden, Utah
American City and County Magazine, December 2007
For many years, Ogden, Utah’s downtown floundered as developers and consumers headed for the suburbs. That is beginning to change, however, as a result of a city project to replace an abandoned mall with a mixed-use development. The first phase, a 140,000-square-foot recreation facility named the Salomon Center, opened in June 2007 and has spurred adjacent commercial, retail and residential construction.
Several years ago, Mayor Matthew Godfrey proposed a plan to purchase the mall and revitalize downtown Ogden, but residents and developers were skeptical. The city pushed forward with the idea, however, purchasing the vacant mall for $6 million in 2001 and demolishing the property. Ogden hired an urban design and planning firm to identify new uses for the site, and invited public suggestions.
Gradually, support grew, and shortly after the city approved construction of a recreation center on the site, private developers and investors committed to build neighboring attractions, including a 13-screen movie theater, two four-story office buildings, a six-story, mixed-use project containing 28 condominium units, a mixed-use project with 108 rental units and three restaurants.
The anchor attraction is the Salomon Center, which includes indoor simulated skydiving, an indoor surfing wave, a climbing wall, a Gold’s Gym, a sports medicine clinic, a nutrition center, a dance studio, a family bowling center, glow golf, bumper cars, billiards, an arcade and two restaurants. Ogden’s redevelopment agency leases the center to a local private company to manage and operate. “The city was trying to change its image from an old railroad town to a high-adventure outdoor recreation destination, and the new Salomon Center needed to be an icon supporting that new image,” says John Patterson, chief administrative officer. “The new center was designed to include some unique high-adventure attractions that would make it a regional attraction drawing people to the city’s downtown.”
Since the Salomon Center opened, a developer has announced another mixed-use project downtown consisting of a seven-story building with 63 condominium units. Also, under negotiation is a 14-story, mixed-use project that will contain 570,000 square feet of condominium and 106,000 square feet of hotel space. The development will complete the city’s plan to redevelop about 20 acres of Ogden’s central business district, Patterson says.
The cost of the center, excluding land, was $20 million, financed through tax increment bonds ($7.28 million), lease revenue bonds ($8.9 million), and $3.82 million from the general fund. The combined cost of the downtown redevelopment when it is completed in 2010 is estimated at $188 million. “The expanded interest created by the Salomon Center and the downtown redevelopment success will help attract the resources necessary to improve the tax base of the city and the lifestyle of its residents,” Patterson says.
Agencies/companies involved: Ogden, Ogden City Redevelopment Agency, Health and Fitness Holdings
I know this next one is way bigger than anything for Kent but I happened to hear the history of this amazing facility and it honestly began as an idea by a dad in NYC that got tired of having to wake up at 4:30 am every day take his gifted young ice skater daughter far outside of the city to skate. From that simple idea, he created a nonprofit organization that now generates over 4 million visitors a year. It’s actually a similar model to what Cleveland has with Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park where an entrepreneur took an old closed down parachute factory and converted it into a really cool indoor mountain bike park that attracts visitors from all over the country (not to mention a city manager from Kent).
I’ve grabbed a few pictures and text from the NY website but you really need to see it for yourself to believe — this place has everything. Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex
Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex is a 30-acre waterfront sports village located between 17th and 23rd Streets along Manhattan’s Hudson River. This $120 million, privately-financed project has transformed four historic, but long-neglected, piers into a major center for public recreation and waterfront access. Situated on Piers 59, 60, 61 and 62 and in the headhouse that connects them, the Complex features the following sports and entertainment venues:
- Golf Club at Chelsea Piers
- Sports Center Health Club at Chelsea Piers
- Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers
- Field House at Chelsea Piers
- PIER SIXTY at Chelsea Piers (Events Center)
- Chelsea Piers Bowling
- Chelsea Piers BlueStreak
The scope and quality of the facilities available at Chelsea Piers is unparalleled in New York City. Many of these facilities cannot be found elsewhere in Manhattan, and all are unmatched in quality.
Chelsea Piers is committed to being the best amateur sports and entertainment complex in the country, with state-of-the-art facilities, cutting-edge programming, first-rate instruction and a courteous, professional staff.
We are committed to making all guests feel welcome at Chelsea Piers and to providing an environment which is always CLEAN, SAFE, FRIENDLY and FUN.
Chelsea Piers aims to improve the quality of life in New York by providing a place for all–adults, children, New Yorkers, visitors–to relax, play, learn and compete.