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Marijuana Taxes Fund Aurora's $41.9 Million Rec Center

Mayor Mike Coffman and Aurora councilmembers Françoise Bergan, Juan Marcano and Alison Coombs break ground.EXPAND
Mayor Mike Coffman and Aurora councilmembers Françoise Bergan, Juan Marcano and Alison Coombs break ground.
AuroraTV
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Wonder where that marijuana tax money goes? In Aurora, recreational cannabis sales are supporting a new public recreation center.

Now under construction at 25400 East Alexander Drive in southeast Aurora, the 62,000-square-foot rec center is expected to cost $41.9 million, all of which will come from recreational marijuana taxes, according to the city's Parks, Recreation and Open Space Department.

The project is slated for completion in early 2023. Amenities will include a 20,000-square-foot fieldhouse, an indoor pool and water slide, an indoor basketball court and running track, a 1,000-square-foot fitness center, group exercise rooms, and multi-purpose and party rooms.

Mayor Mike Coffman, Aurora City Council members, city staffers and project developers broke ground at the site on February 18. At the small ceremony (COVID, remember?), Coffman called it an "extraordinary" building that won't be just a recreational center, "but really a community center for all the people to enjoy."

The building will be Aurora's sixth public recreation center, and the second funded by marijuana tax revenue. In 2019, a facility funded by $34 million in marijuana sales taxes opened in central Aurora; the city set aside another $2 million in marijuana tax revenue to help update the Aurora Southwest Recreation Center. In 2017, the city used $900,000 in pot revenue to renovate an old Aurora Police Department gym into a daily resource center for the homeless.

The new center is being built on a 600-acre plot of land acquired from the federal government in 1984 for Parks and Rec use, just west of the Aurora Reservoir and south of Arapahoe County Fairgrounds. Coffman credited residents of Ward VI, represented by Councilwoman Françoise Bergan, for pointing out the need for a new rec center in their part of town. "The constituents in southeast Aurora really rose to the challenge and sent emails to all of city council," Bergan noted at the groundbreaking.

Aurora's 23 recreational dispensaries were responsible for bringing in approximately $14.8 million in marijuana tax revenue in 2020, according to the city's Finance Department, a 24 percent jump from 2019 thanks in part to a 1 percent increase in local marijuana sales tax approved by Aurora City Council last April. Since recreational marijuana sales began in Aurora in 2015, the city has collected $54.4 million in tax revenue, the department says.

That total will only grow in 2021, with retail pot delivery now added to the mix: Aurora is currently the only municipality in Colorado with dispensaries that's allowing recreational pot delivery, One business is already licensed by the state and several more are awaiting approval; so far, though, the lone Aurora dispensary with a recreational delivery permit from the state, Colorado Harvest Company, has not yet applied for local approval, according to the city's Marijuana Enforcement Division. But it will.

In the meantime, see where Aurora's marijuana taxes are going in the photos below:

A current shot of the 600 acres in southeast Aurora where the rec center is being built.EXPAND
A current shot of the 600 acres in southeast Aurora where the rec center is being built.
AuroraTV
A rendering of the future rec center.EXPAND
A rendering of the future rec center.
City of Aurora
The future rec center.EXPAND
The future rec center.
City of Aurora
A rendering of the rec center.EXPAND
A rendering of the rec center.
City of Aurora
Populous is designing the rec center.EXPAND
Populous is designing the rec center.
City of Aurora

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