Weed-Funded Rec Center Opens in Aurora, Colorado

Call it the “House that Weed Built.”
Aurora
The indoor field at the Southeast Recreation Center and Fieldhouse / Courtesy City of Aurora

The city of Aurora, Colorado hosted a grand opening on Tuesday for its brand new 77,000-square foot, nearly $42 million recreational facility that was funded entirely by tax revenue generated from legal marijuana sales. 

Known as the “Southeast Recreation Center and Fieldhouse,” the facility boasts a slew of amenities, according to local news station KDVR: “A 23,000-square-foot fieldhouse with temperature controlled indoor environment; A full-sized field with professional-grade turf; An 8,000-square-foot multiuse gymnasium [that] will be able to accommodate one main basketball court, two cross basketball courts, two volleyball courts or three pickleball courts; A 1/9-mile long track elevated above the fitness area and gymnasium; A 7,600-square-foot fitness area with state-of-the-art equipment, including: A functional fitness area; An outdoor fitness space; A fitness studio; A large community room; [and a] natatorium, which in turn is comprised of: A 125,000-gallon swimming pool with a maximum depth of seven feet; A spa pool with water jets; A leisure pool that includes a 25-yard, four-lane lap pool, a lazy river, and a 20-foot-tall waterslide.” 

The city broke ground on the facility in early 2021, and it is the second new recreational facility to open in Aurora in the last four years.

The other rec center, which opened in 2019, was also funded by taxes from marijuana sales, according to KDVR. The news outlet Westworld reported that the Aurora City Council in 2020 “approved increasing the city’s sales tax on recreational marijuana from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent, with the additional revenues going to fund youth violence prevention projects.” 

“We are excited to open our newest recreation center and fieldhouse,” Brooke Bell, the director of the Aurora Parks, Recreation and Open Space, said in a press release from the city earlier this month. “After an extensive community engagement process, the feedback received guided the creation of this exceptional facility; we look forward to the community enjoying the space they helped envision for years to come.”

In the press release, the city said that the Southeast Recreation Center is located “near several neighborhoods and the Aurora Reservoir,” and that “the center is a regional destination boasting the first indoor fieldhouse within the city in addition to a variety of other amenities and breathtaking views of the Colorado mountains.”

The construction of the two recreational facilities in Aurora serve as “proof of concept” for advocates who helped Colorado become one of the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis a little more than a decade ago when voters there approved Amendment 64. 

Supporters of marijuana legalization have long contended that a regulated cannabis retail market could be an economic boon for state and local governments. 

“Colorado did what no one had done before,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at an event in October commemorating the 10th anniversary of the state’s legalization measure, as quoted by the Denver Gazette. “With voter [approval] of Amendment 64, we made history and therefore it is fitting that we are celebrating today 10 years here at History Colorado.”

Polis, a Democrat, has worked to strengthen the marijuana law. Last summer, he signed an executive order “to ensure that no Coloradan is subject to penalization for the possession, cultivation, or use of marijuana as this substance is legal in Colorado as a result of Amendment 64,” his office announced at the time.

“The exclusion of people from the workforce because of marijuana-related activities that are lawful in Colorado, but still criminally penalized in other states, hinders our residents, economy and our State. No one who lawfully consumes, possesses, cultivates or processes marijuana pursuant to Colorado law should be subject to professional sanctions or denied a professional license in Colorado. This includes individuals who consume, possess, cultivate or process marijuana in another state in a manner that would be legal under Colorado law,” Polis said in a statement.

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