History of the Bubble

Tennis fan lobs $8,000 toward ‘bubble’ purchase

By Greg Massé, Post Independent
April 3, 2002

A Glenwood Springs tennis devotee and his wife are doing all they can to keep Battlement Mesa from bursting their bubble.
Ron and Kayli Offerle handed workers at the Glenwood Springs Community Center an $8,000 check for the center’s purchase of the Snowmass Club tennis bubble.
Ron brought a cashier’s check to the center March 26 after reading a story in the Post Independent about the possibility that the city could buy the bubble.
“I have a great interest in tennis and I’m a tennis player,” Ron Offerle said. “We’re not looking for any notoriety or anything … It’s really not that much money.”
He just wants Glenwood Springs to beat Battlement Mesa in scooping up the bargain bubble.
The Snowmass Club plans to replace the 8-year-old, $120,000 bubble with a permanent structure. So it has offered to sell the inflatable, two-court enclosure for $8,000. The year-round tennis court cover comes with heating and fan equipment, and is expected to last another 10 years.
Offerle figured the donation would give the Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department the upper hand.
“I thought they could move faster and beat out Battlement Mesa,” Offerle said. “I think we need more tennis. I grew up in Grand Junction and I hope that someday our tennis program can rival theirs.”
“It’s certainly not a done deal, but his donation makes the decision easier,” Parks and Recreation director Dan Rodgerson said.
Rodgerson still needs to take the proposal to the city Planning and Zoning Commission, figure out the extra construction costs a bubble would require, calculate upgrade or repair costs for the bubble’s fans, heaters and electrical components and figure utility costs.
And while $8,000 will buy the bubble, Rodgerson said it will cost $4,500 to move it from Snowmass Village to Glenwood Springs.
Rodgerson hasn’t yet cashed Offerle’s check. He wants to be sure the bubble is approved first. But time is critical, he said.
“They need to take it down in two weeks,” he said.
The item is on City Council’s agenda for Thursday night. Rodgerson is recommending the city use its own money to buy the bubble and, if it can be used, then accept Offerle’s donation.
Tennis enthusiast and high school coach Kim Schlagel, 23, said the bubble would be a great amenity for the community.
“It would be really nice to be able to play tennis year-round,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of support for it.”
Schlagel moved to Glenwood Springs from Florida, where tennis is played outdoors year-round. An affordable facility that fosters indoor tennis would be good for adults and kids alike, she said.
“I just want to help the city to offer different activities for kids,” she said. “The Community Center – it’s part of the community, so it’s encouraging community tennis.”

Costs, opposition a double-fault for tennis bubble

By Greg Massé
October 6, 2002

The tennis bubble could be in trouble.
As costs related to the bubble’s erection continue to blow up, Glenwood Springs City Council members have begun backing off the bubble bandwagon.
One thing’s for sure: If the bubble is built at all, it won’t be this year.
“We’re not going ahead this year for the lateness of the year and budgetary constraints,” city manager Mike Copp said.
At Thursday night’s council meeting, Parks and Recreation director Dan Rodgerson – who said he’s been nicknamed the “Bubble Boy” since the city purchased the cold-weather tennis shelter – uncovered the most recent and much-inflated cost estimate for the bubble: $440,000.
The cost includes grading at its proposed site behind the Community Center, as well as construction of and equipment for the bubble itself.
“It’s been stalled because of a budget shortfall,” Rodgerson said. Also, he said, it could be difficult to get asphalt for the courts’ surfaces.
Of the needed money, council would allow that $250,000 could come from parkland dedication fees. But it is not known where the other $190,000 would come from.
“When we voted unanimously to get this bubble, it was only $8,000 and I figured there would be some costs over and above that,” Mayor Don Vanderhoof said. “But it astounds me when we talk about the cost coming to $440,000.”
Copp agreed.
“This thing kind of grew and grew and grew and went from a project that was going to cost practically nothing to $440,000,” he said.
To add to the debate, some people in the tennis community are wrangling about whether the tennis bubble would be the best way to spend such a large sum of money, or if council should look at building more courts in lieu of the bubble.
“I’m all for the bubble, but we need four courts besides it,” local tennis booster Connie Eckert told council.
Another argument against the bubble is that trapped heat could make the bubble unusable for much of the day during summer.
But those in favor of the bubble point out that the five months of use during late fall, winter and early spring would more than make up for lost playing time in summer.
“This represents a real opportunity,” Councilman Dave Merritt said. “We have an ice rink that’s not as usable in summer. … I think it would be a real draw. It would bring people here, and it would keep people here.”
Larry Emery, who represents the part of Glenwood Springs that would be most directly affected by the large white bubble’s visual impacts, argued that those impacts, along with the high price tag of installing the bubble, should bring the argument to an end.
“I think we should move off the bubble,” he said. “I think if more courts are built, it would be more beneficial.”
Rather than trying to rush the construction of the expensive courts when it is unclear if they’re universally wanted, council decided to form a committee over the winter made up of interested people to determine which direction the tennis court decision should go.
Bubble history
After discovering that the bubble was being dismantled at its former home, the Snowmass Club in Snowmass Village, Rodgerson approached the Glenwood Springs City Council about the possibility of purchasing it.
In April, they approved the idea, along with the $8,000 in funding.
Meanwhile, local tennis enthusiasts Ron and Kayli Offerle handed workers at the Community Center an $8,000 check to reimburse the city for the bubble.
In May, the Glenwood Springs City Council directed Rodgerson to look at placing the bubble behind the Community Center so it doesn’t block the attractive, and expensive, front facade of the building.
It measures approximately 120 by 120 feet, stands about 40 feet tall and fits two tennis courts.
In August, the Glenwood Springs Planning and Zoning Commission approved a minor development permit for four tennis courts, with two of those courts built to fit within the confines of the bubble, allowing year-round tennis access.
The big question facing the planning board was whether to allow a height variance for the bubble. They approved it on the condition that it be placed on the south side of the Community Center, partially concealing its mass.
Rodgerson told P&Z the architectural drawings for four courts were completed and submitted to the planning board earlier in August. The parks department had been planning to seek bids for construction of the courts in September, and construction was to have begun later in the fall.
Since then, the aforementioned budgetary problems have kept the bubble from being built.
Part of the high cost of putting in the bubble is the purchase of new heaters and blowers. Without the blowers, and their gas-powered backup generators, the bubble would not stay up.
On Thursday, Rodgerson indicated what he felt it would cost to use the tennis bubble.
“If we put the bubble in, it would cost $12 to $16 per hour in order to recoup the cost of operations,” he said.
Despite sinking hopes for the bubble’s eventual inflation, Rodgerson said he remains hopeful that tennis enthusiasts will net what they need.
“I’m still optimistic we’ll still be building something in the spring,” he said.

Glenwood’s tennis bubble bounces back Committee is forming to raise installation funds. 

By Greg Massé
October 31, 2002

A renewed show of public support Tuesday for the tennis bubble inflated the hopes of some Glenwood Springs tennis enthusiasts.
Around 50 tennis players gathered at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Tuesday to plump for the bubble, which had appeared to be a lost cause.
“There’s an overwhelming desire to still make the bubble work,” Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department director Dan Rodgerson said.
The bubble, purchased from the Snowmass Club last April for a bargain $8,000, has been stored in the city’s boneyard on Airport Road for the past seven months while City Council decides its fate.
Supportive council members began to change their tune Oct. 3 after hearing that engineering, grading, constructing and providing equipment for the bubble could cost more $440,000.
Instead of dropping the idea, council asked Rodgerson to set up a meeting to get the community’s input on what to do with the bubble. And after closer study, he revised the bubble installation cost estimate down to $300,000.
Tennis players could see that the project was now within range.
“They want the bubble to happen,” Rodgerson said after Tuesday’s meeting. “People were adamant.”
Surprised at the turnout and overwhelming support for the bubble, Rodgerson is now helping a group to organize a committee aimed at raising around $100,000 to make the bubble a reality.
“What they decided to do is raise the money that would be the shortfall,” Rodgerson said of the committee.
Grand River Construction already offered $50,000 worth of work on the project, and the Parks and Recreation Department likely can draw $150,000 from its account, Rodgerson said.
Ron Offerle was appointed chairman of the committee. Offerle and his wife, Kayli, donated $8,000 to the city to buy the bubble last April.
The bubble would be built on the south side of the Community Center, adjacent to the skating rink.
While $300,000 would cover constructing two courts, engineering and raising the bubble, no other courts could be built.
“What we want and what we can afford are dramatically different,” Rodgerson said.
But as snow lightly fell outside and temperatures plummeted, marking the end of the outdoor tennis season, players seemed ready for such a compromise.
“It was a good meeting and we had a lot of good public input,” Rodgerson said. “They certainly gave the impression they’d do whatever it took.”

Tennis bubble rolls off to storage; four outdoor courts to be built
By Greg Massé
November 24, 2002

A tennis bubble trade-off evoked a mixed reaction among tennis players during the Glenwood Springs City Council meeting Thursday.
City Council decided to build four new outdoor courts at the Community Center and leave the bubble, purchased earlier this year from the Snowmass Club, in outdoor storage in the city’s boneyard.
Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Department director Dan Rodgerson pushed down his cost estimate for installing the bubble to $310,000, and noted that at a recent, well-attended meeting of tennis enthusiasts, most supported installing the bubble.
“They said they wanted to do anything they could to make it happen,” he said.
But Rodgerson noted that four uncovered courts would provide more total tennis usage than two courts under the bubble.
He also predicted there would be grumbles from people who see the 40-foot-tall, 120-foot-long by 120-foot-wide white bubble as an eyesore. It would be highly visible from many neighborhoods in West Glenwood.
Several tennis players spoke out in support of the bubble.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” said Mike Blair. “Whenever I go by Copper Mountain, I think, `Those people are lucky, they can play all winter.'”
Walt Brown said he’s played tennis all over the world and he would love to see the Snowmass Club bubble reinflated in Glenwood Springs.
“I’ve played in this bubble probably 200 times, and I think you stole it,” he said.
The city actually paid $8,000 for the bubble.
But City Council decided to forego the bubble to build four courts in front of the Community Center next spring.
“I don’t want to open up the Community Center next year without any tennis courts,” Councilman Don Gillespie said.
“It makes all the sense to me to build four courts now,” Mayor Don Vanderhoof said.
Councilman Dave Merritt vehemently disagreed, however.
“Why did we bother asking for public input on this?” he asked. “By foregoing this, we are essentially throwing the bubble away.”
City manager Mike Copp gave bubble fans a glimmer of hope, saying he would look for a way to partially fund the bubble, leaving bubble supporters to raise the remainder needed.
“I’m saying there could be ways we could make this happen,” he said.
After the final 5-2 vote to build four courts, with Merritt and Rick Davis dissenting, tennis players expressed mixed feelings about the outcome.
Some said they were happy to get four outdoor courts, while others were bitterly disappointed that the bubble is, for now, deflated.
“Four courts are better than none,” said C.C. Nolen. “The bubble isn’t dead, it’s just waiting in the boneyard until the right donors come along.”
Corrine Merritt said she’d play at the four courts, but recalled, “at the Parks and Recreation meeting, the community was 2-1 in favor and (City Council) didn’t want to listen. We wanted the bubble.”
Rodgerson said the council’s decision to build four courts is a boon to the Community Center and to tennis players around the area.
“There’s a lot of strong feelings both ways, but the bottom line is we have four new courts, so the tennis community wins,” he said.
Rodgerson expects to charge players $2 to $5 per hour to play on the new courts.
The courts will be cleaned and maintained and players will be able to reserve the courts and use the Community Center’s locker rooms.
“I have a hard time looking at this as a loss for the tennis community,” he said. “The city hasn’t built tennis courts for 20 years. I look at this as a huge step forward.”


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