COLORADO SPRINGS — For the past decade, the Westside Community Center has been operated by Woodmen Valley Chapel. Now, that contract is coming to an end, and the city must find a new entity to manage the building.
News5 spoke with Stu Davis from Woodmen Valley Chapel, who said their current contract runs through February of 2022. Davis said they are willing to vacate the contract earlier than that, if it is the best move for the Westside Community Center.
Davis said Woodmen Valley Chapel has done a great job at re-establishing the Westside Community Center over the past decade. The decision not to renew the contract was because they felt there were other organizations that could expand the resources and programs at the center beyond what they could provide.
The Recreation and Administration Manager for Colorado Springs, Kim King, said the city is in the middle of a request for proposal process regarding the operation and management of the center. "One of the criteria was providing community services and benefit, regardless of what the type of proposal was," said King.
King said one of the proposals suggested a school. The Westside Community Center is originally from School District 11, and King said they would have to approve the use of a school site at the center. According to King, the district is not comfortable with that plan at this time.
So, King said they are now assessing the second highest ranked proposal. "We still have additional proposals to review, so we are still in the middle of the process... We can't identify who it is, or what it is, specifically. So there are unknowns, which again, I understand the neighborhood would be concerned about," said King.
Dozens of neighbors gathered at the Westside Community Center on Thursday afternoon to discuss the future of the center. "They're just breaking our hearts... This is a very vital part of the soul of the westside of Colorado Springs," said Marianne Rapp, one of many neighbors at the center that day.
Many neighbors fear a new contract will dramatically change the Westside Community Center. "Currently the city is focused on new, new, and new... It is Old Colorado City for a reason, and that reason is we have a pocket of historical buildings here," said Vicky McLaughlin, another neighbor at the meeting on Thursday.
McLaughlin said she wants the space to remain a community center. "I would like to see our garden flourish, I would like to be able to walk and buy my produce here that was grown here, I would like to send my kids to after school programming here... I'm a native. I've lived here my whole life. And it's really easy to have people who move here from out of state that want to see change, that want to see growth, they want to mold the city into the city that they grew up in," said McLaughlin.
King hopes the city reaches a decision on what happens to the Westside Community Center in May.
The full statement from the City of Colorado Springs is attached.
The City of Colorado Springs is aware of the ongoing concerns regarding the future of the Westside Community Center. Regarding the question being asked most by the community, the potential use of the Center as a school site is no longer being considered. As a result, the City will follow its established procurement process and reach out to the second-highest ranked proposer to determine if they are still interested in operating the Center. The Request For Proposal (RFP) process is governed by City Procurement Rules and Regulations which limits the ability to share details of a proposal until such time as a contract has been established. This rule attempts to protect the City’s negotiation position while the parties are working toward a mutually agreeable contract. We anticipate concluding negotiations in May and will disclose further information to the public at that time. As background, the contractual operator of the Westside Community Center, Woodmen Valley Chapel, gave notice to the Parks Department that it was not interested in renewing its agreement past 2021. Per established procurement guidelines, the City undertook an RFP process to determine the future use and operation of the site.
As stated in the RFP, the City's goals include:
• To secure a financially stable entity that will effectively manage, operate and maintain the Westside Community Center;
• To have the Westside Community Center support and foster activities that will provide beneficial services to the Westside neighborhood as well as the community as a whole; and
• To reduce the level of maintenance and capital demands upon the City by including a viable capital improvement program for the facility
The proposals received were evaluated by a team of individuals representing multiple facets of the community. This committee included residents from the west side community, as well as representatives from the Parks Advisory Board and the Parks Department. At this time, Woodmen Valley Chapel will continue operations through the end of 2021.