(Matilde Campodonico, Associated Press file)

Pot tax funds could cover central Denver rec center’s higher cost

Cost estimates have ballooned by about 25 percent for the Central Denver Recreation Center, and city officials want to tap into recreational marijuana tax proceeds to pay for about half the increase.

The $6.6 million jump in the construction budget is due mostly to escalating costs in the building industry and the city’s fine-tuning of plans for the rec center with public input, Denver Parks and Recreation Executive Director Lauri Dannemiller told a City Council committee Tuesday morning.

Cannabist Q&A: Readers have cannabis questions — health, legal, Colorado-centric, just curious — and we have answers.
Have a question? Send us an email: askthe cannabist@gmail.com

About $1.3 million of the increase is attributed to the cost of giving the rec center a vertical, urban-friendly design for the site at East Colfax Avenue and Josephine Street.

At the same time, Dannemiller and Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said officials had pared back some of the plans, such as reducing the lap pool from 10 lanes to eight. That’s a change some council members hope to see reversed, perhaps by seeking private donors or selling naming rights for the center, because it could affect the new rec center’s ability to host swim meets.

Groundbreaking is planned in the spring or early summer for the now-$32.3 million facility, seen as a marquee center for Denver’s parks system.

Things to do: What’s happening this month? Check our events calendar

The rec center — to be built at four stories facing Colfax, with a rooftop deck for event rentals — would open in late 2016 or at the start of 2017 near East High School and south of City Park.

Robb said she and Councilman Albus Brooks scrutinized the budget with planners before coming to the council to ask for more money.

“We believe this is a tight budget,” Dannemiller said. “We know we are probably going to have to make a few programmatic changes as we go along, but we’re feeling pretty confident about this budget of $32 million.”

City finance officials want to cover the $6.6 million cost increase by tapping $900,000 from unspent parks budget money this year, $2.5 million from the Better Denver Bond program and $3.2 million in marijuana tax proceeds.

The pot tax money was leftover after the council signed off last summer on new city spending for regulation and marijuana enforcement.

The committee approved two proposals related to the funding increase, sending them to the full council for consideration in coming weeks.

Jon Murray: 303-954-1405, jmurray@denverpost.com or twitter.com/JonMurray

This story was first published on DenverPost.com