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Parks and Rec hosts open houses at rec centers as membership numbers decline

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Denver Parks and Recreation is holding open houses at its recreation centers to showcase their amenities "and hopefully gain some new members and excite our existing members about what we have to offer," says spokeswoman Angela Casias. Since Parks and Rec increased its fees in January, membership has declined from 29,000 members last May to 22,000 this May.

"Overall, we've just seen a decrease from people for whom it may have made sense to look at other options," Casias says.

At most recreation centers, the membership fee increase was steep. Instead of paying a flat rate of $190 per year for access to all 27 rec centers, members now belong to one of three tiers: regional centers, which are large; local centers, which are medium-sized; or neighborhood centers, which are small. Those with regional memberships can also go to local or neighborhood centers, but not vice versa. Membership for adults ages 25 to 64 costs $190 per year for neighborhood centers, $249 for local centers and $369 for regional centers. Kids, young adults and seniors pay less.

But Casias is quick to point out that in addition to raising the price, Parks and Rec improved its services. For instance, regional centers, such as Rude Rec Center in Sun Valley and Montclair Rec Center in Lowry, expanded their hours and are now open seven days a week. Plus, fitness classes like pilates and yoga are now free for members.

Casias also highlights several new discounts. Under the new pricing structure, households with more than one membership get a deal. As long as one person pays full price, the other members of the household can buy a membership for half price. A popular summer partnership with Kaiser Permanente that provided free pool passes to kids was discontinued this year, but Casias says Parks and Rec has implemented a smaller version on its own this summer, opening the pools for free to kids on the weekends.

And in yesterday's State of the City address, Mayor Michael Hancock announced a pilot program that will provide free rec center memberships to all sixth- through twelfth-graders in Denver Public Schools. Starting this fall, their school ID cards will act as both a rec center pass and a library card, Hancock said. The city is still working out the details, Casias says, but the pilot should give free access to 34,000 students.

Still, the city is looking to boost its declining rec center membership numbers -- hence, the open houses. "It's a lot of educating people," Casias says. "One of the things we hear quite a bit, that people say all the time, is, 'I had no idea the rec center was here.' ... We're focusing on getting the word out and bringing people in."

The city already hosted open houses at the six rec centers in southeast Denver, and the five centers in northwest Denver will have their turn starting on Thursday and lasting through Saturday. The southwest centers will be open July 26 through July 28, and those in the northeast part of the city will be open August 2 through August 4. Click here for a full schedule. During the open houses, anyone can come and try the rec centers or get a tour from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

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