Our View: Putting value on Triple Crown

Steamboat Springs City Council member Loui Antonucci was on target last week with his comments about a potential sports complex in Northwest Colorado.

Antonucci said support for such a complex, which would be used heavily by Triple Crown, basically boils down to determining a couple numbers -- the potential costs and the potential revenues.

We couldn't agree more, and we urge the city to do a financial analysis to determine the economic impact of Triple Crown and a sports complex to determine the city's level of investment in such a facility. Such an analysis, we think, will show that Triple Crown is a key component of our summer economy that can't easily be replaced and thus a sports complex is a good investment.

At last week's City Council meeting, Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Chamber Resort Association, discussed the potential sports complex. Evans Hall said two sites have been identified -- one south of Hayden and one west of Steamboat.

An estimated cost of the Hayden complex is $9.3 million; the land and water rights would be donated by Ron Sills. The Brown complex, on property west of Steamboat owned by Mary Brown, would cost about $7.9 million. The Brown land, land preparation and water would cost an estimated $6 million for a total of almost $14 million.

Although the sports complex could be used by a variety of organizations, the impetus clearly is Triple Crown.

Triple Crown hosts youth and adult sports tournaments, mostly baseball and softball. Historically, the organization has held as many as 10 tournaments on consecutive weekends in the summer, bringing thousands of visitors to Steamboat Springs week after week. These visitors shop in our stores, stay in our hotels and use our amenities, contributing significantly to the sales tax that funds our city services.

Critics say Triple Crown visitors create traffic problems and disrupt the peace of summer. Others point out that more upscale events could have a similar economic impact with fewer people, creating less disruption in the community.

Triple Crown's five-year agreement with the city expires in September 2007. That contract required the city to provide a plan for new fields. A few fields have been addressed, but the numbers are well below what Triple Crown would like to see in the long term. Without adding fields, Triple Crown will continue to shift its events to locations such as Park City, Utah.

Letting that happen would seem to be a significant risk.

A new sports complex in Hayden would seem to have a lot of advantages. Sill's donation helps reduce costs, and Hayden residents have largely embraced hosting Triple Crown events. Triple Crown and the sports complex could be the impetus to drive new commercial business in Hayden such as hotels, restaurants and retailers. Shifting games to Hayden also would alleviate some of the traffic and noise concerns Steamboat residents have. Yet, Steamboat would still reap significant sales tax revenues from Triple Crown families because of the tourism amenities here.

Triple Crown was one of the central issues of the November City Council election, and several City Council members have indicated they have concerns about the organization. Council member Steve Ivancie voted against the last Triple Crown contract and council member Towny Anderson raised several issues last week.

We would urge the council members to get the data on Triple Crown. Our guess is that data will show Triple Crown means a lot to this city and that helping to pay for new fields in Hayden is one of the smartest investments Steamboat Springs can make.

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