20210924-news-neighborhoodfacility FILE

Cheyenne city officials have sold the Neighborhood Facility and the land it sits on to Laramie County School District 1 for the future expansion of nearby Cole Elementary School. The facility at 610 W. Seventh St. in south Cheyenne was photographed Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. Wyoming Tribune Eagle/file

CHEYENNE – If the proposal on the November sixth-penny sales tax ballot to build a gymnasium and gymnastics facility doesn’t pass, the city’s gymnastics program may come to an end.

The gymnasium is No. 11 on the 14-issue ballot and, if approved by Laramie County voters, would provide $2 million to the city to construct a facility next to the Cheyenne Ice and Events Center on West Lincolnway. The project would cater not only to gymnastics, but also youth and adult recreational programs that need multi-use courts and facilities.

Historically, the optional 1% specific-purpose tax has funded many recreational and community enhancement projects in Laramie County, but in the last sixth-penny election, in 2017, the facility was voted down.

Brandi Robinson, president of the Cheyenne Gymnastics Parent Booster Club, said this is because there is a lack of support for a city-run recreational center. She said some community members can’t see the benefits, or believe the responsibility should fall on the private sector, but she doesn’t see this project as overstepping government bounds.

The Cheyenne Community Recreation and Events Department has supported youth and adult programs for decades, and recently took on more recreational responsibilities after Laramie County School District 1 discontinued elementary sports teams.

The waiting lists to compete on teams, attend classes and participate in events are long. And without a facility to house those activities in, Robinson said she doesn’t know where many families will turn.

“Over 6,000 people in this town take advantage of these programs through the parks and recreation department,” she said.

Members of the gymnastics community are especially adamant about the need for the building and equipment, because there is a possibility the 45-year-old program could end.

The school district recently bought the deteriorating Cheyenne Neighborhood Facility at 610 W. Seventh St. from the city, and plans to tear it down in order to build a new Cole Elementary at that location. If the proposal does not pass, as soon as the facility is officially closed for demolition, there will be no place for community members to practice and play.

Erica Pascoe, a mother of one of the girls in the gymnastics program, said although the building is old, falling apart and even a safety hazard, it is better than nothing. She doesn’t want her daughter to lose the camaraderie and relationships she has built, as well as the chance to compete throughout the rest of her childhood.

She wants a new gymnasium to be built for the program, but she also said Cheyenne would be losing a valuable experience.

“It’s a great opportunity for more kids to be involved in gymnastics,” she said. “And I think it would also be a great benefit to the city of Cheyenne because this would give us an opportunity to eventually host some domestic meets, and that would bring great revenue to the city, as well.”

Grace Dillow, who has been involved in gymnastics in Cheyenne for 11 years, also said she believes the proposal could have a large impact on the community. With a new facility, she could see many of her peers having the space and equipment to develop into collegiate gymnasts.

“For me, personally, it would mean being able to explore skills and routines that require equipment that is conducive to those specific skills,” she said. “For younger gymnasts, having the right environment and space to practice and train in would mean a world of new possibilities.”

There are 57 girls on Cheyenne’s competitive gymnastics team, and even more waiting to join. Robinson said the program has doubled over the past few years, and she is worried the opportunity to grow won’t be available after this next election.

“It creates a lifelong foundation of enjoying physical activity,” she said, “which the world needs right now.”

Early and absentee voting for the sixth-penny ballot proposals have already begun. Election Day is Nov. 2.

Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s education reporter. She can be reached by email at jhall@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.

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