Visitors entering the Durango Community Recreation Center are typically greeted by a cacophony of smells and sounds: chlorine from the pools, the clanking of exercise equipment and the screams of children playing in the leisure pools.
This week is different.
The rec center is closed through Saturday for its annual cleaning.
It is an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. The entire rec center staff is moving equipment, dusting surfaces and donning black latex gloves to scrub every nook and cranny of the 72,000-square-foot rec center.
“Our full-time rec center staff is here putting in at least 40 (hours), usually more like 60 hours,” said rec center manager John Robinette.
The rec center spends about $20,000 per year on cleaning supplies and bringing in contract crews for the bigger tasks, like window washing, carpet cleaning, painting, re-striping the parking lot and refinishing the gym floor.
The waterslide has been turned off, the leisure pool has been mostly drained, and every piece of exercise equipment has been moved so the floors can be waxed. Even the conference rooms are scrubbed.
Instead of sweat and chlorine, the primary odor this week is paint, polyurethane and cleaning supplies. Rock and pop music reverberates through the building as each employee uses rags and scrub brushes to tend to their assigned areas.
One employee scrubs the waterslide, while one employee uses Murphy’s oil to wipe baseboards, and another polishes gym equipment.
“Sometimes we are like, ‘Oh my god, are we going to get it done?’” Robinette said. “It looks like there's no way we're going to get it done. But we do. We pull it together and make it happen.”
The annual scrub-down used to occur in late August, but it was moved last year to the third week in October because it is typically less busy and it coincided with a major pool improvement project.
The rec center, which opened in January 2002, typically serves about 1,000 people per day. For the most part, customers received the message that it would be closed this week, Robinette said.
The city and the rec center staff posted signs, posted social media notifications and sent an email letting patrons know it would be closed this week. A few people were still caught by surprise when the sliding glass doors didn’t open.
“It's a very popular place,” Robinette said. “We have lots of people that come here daily.”
Regular customers always notice the difference after the weeklong cleaning, he said.
“It's very noticeable. Our floor right here will be shining,” he said while standing near the entryway. “The upstairs floor, it's super noticeable. I mean, people notice right away.”
Bruce Moss, who helps oversee the front desk, said the annual cleaning is a nice change of pace, but it is physically demanding.
Every phone, computer and piece of paper is moved so that every square inch can be cleaned, he said.
“Once a year, we do this and make it spit and shine,” Moss said. “We're proud of this facility. This is our little community gem. I have people come in all the time and say, ‘God, this place is amazing.’”
Robinette maintains checklists for each section of the rec center that itemizes what needs to be done this week. He then assigns leaders to oversee each of those sections. Items on the checklist include dusting light fixtures, cleaning duct work, scrubbing walls and waxing floors.
“It’s hands-on. It’s getting down and dirty,” Robinette said. “It’s a necessary thing that we need to do. And we get a lot of good compliments on how good the facility looks.”
Robinette is careful to distinguish the annual cleaning from the cleaning that gets done every day. He said the rec center has a good reputation for maintaining a clean facility each and every day.
Patrons typically wipe down exercise machines after each use, but they get wiped down again at the end of each day by rec center staff, Robinette said. This week, someone will spend 20 to 30 minutes on each machine cleaning and polishing them.
All the climbing wall holds will be removed and scrubbed. Then the entire climbing wall surface will be cleaned. Finally, members of the Durango Climbers Coalition will come in and set new climbing routes, Robinette said.
The racquetball courts have been sanded and refinished. Later this week, all the ball marks will be removed from the walls and the windows will be cleaned.
The water in the pools has been lowered so employees can scrub the scum lines, fix pool grates and power wash the decks.
Ed Walinski, the rec center’s maintenance supervisor, said everybody chips in this week to do their part and get their hands a little dirty. That fresh-cleaned smell lasts for a few days, he said, but more than anything the shiny surfaces are an incentive to maintain the cleanliness in perpetuity.
This is the only week of the year the rec center closes, so it is a one-shot chance to take care of the major upkeep projects, Walinski said.
“They're big projects,” he said. “We cram a lot into seven days.”