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Weed-Funded Rec Center Opens in Aurora, Colorado

Aurora, Colorado, hosted the grand opening Tuesday of their brand-new recreational facility, 77,000-square feet, that cost $42 million. The entire amount was paid for by taxes generated from legal pot 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]It will have one basketball court, two basketball cross courts and three volleyball courts. There is also a 1/9-mile track that runs above the gymnasium. The 7,600-square foot fitness area has state-of-the art equipment. This includes a functional fitness area; an outdoor fitness space; a studio; and large communal 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.” 

In early 2021 the city broke ground for the new facility. It is also the second Aurora recreational facility that has opened in the past four years.

KDVR reports that taxes on marijuana sales also helped fund the second rec center which was opened in 2019. 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. 

The argument that legalization of cannabis could lead to a more prosperous economy has been supported for a long time by supporters. 

“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 is a Democrat who has worked hard to improve the law on marijuana. 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. Colorado law prohibits anyone from lawfully consuming, possessing, cultivating, processing, or growing marijuana. 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.