Playing ball

The Yampa Valley sees the runs, hits and errors of hosting Triple Crown

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Any town that wants to host Triple Crown sports will have to pay for it, but for the next five years, it probably won't be the Steamboat Springs City Council.

Steamboat Springs has been host to Triple Crown softball, baseball and soccer for the past 13 years, with some spillover games held in Craig, Hayden and Oak Creek.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association estimates that the event brings $10 million into the town's economy each year and the association will likely be the one that pays to keep that money coming.

According to Sandy Evans-Hall, the chamber's executive vice president, a committee is in the process of renegotiating a five-year contract with Triple Crown Sports. In the past, the city of Steamboat Springs has paid approximately $75,000 of the $100,000 Triple Crown charges its tournament venues to get teams into town for eight weekends of the summer. The Chamber Resort Association pays the remainder.

Until next year.

According to Steamboat Springs City Council member Kathy Connell, the council is working its way out of the contract with Triple Crown, saying the money would be better spent maintaining and upgrading fields to the benefit of residents as well as Triple Crown participants.

Various participants, including representatives from the chamber and the city are working to renew the contract with Triple Crown. The current contract expires this year. The new contract, if approved, will run from 2003-2007.

Approval of the contract isn't only contingent on what the hosting entity will be asked to pay. Steamboat Springs residents have attended several council meetings complaining about Triple Crown and the council wants to be sure those concerns are addressed in the contract, Connell said.

"The group's small, but mighty," Connell said. "The council has several concerns. One, there are a lot of rumors that Triple Crown plans to grow Triple Crown in Steamboat and we want to make sure that's not true. Two, we're concerned that Emerald Park not be part of the contract. And three, historically the city has given money to Triple Crown, but we'd rather see the money be put into upgrading the fields."

According to Evans-Hall, other complaints are based on past behavior of Triple Crown participants behavior that no longer exists.

"There are some people who are opposed to Triple Crown," she said. "In Steamboat Springs it has been a controversial topic for a long time. It created some bad feelings in the early years, but they have evolved greatly since then. They've changed from just adult-oriented sports to youth and family oriented."

Other complaints focus on the loss of fields to local use, traffic problems and impact tourists have on the atmosphere of the town.

Evans-Hall said attempts are made to schedule Triple Crown games where there are no local games or practices scheduled.

"We try to accommodate all local needs and demands," Evans-Hall said.

Despite opposition, Evans-Hall thinks the contract will be approved and Triple Crown will continue to hold tournaments in Steamboat Springs which is a good thing for Craig.

What it means for Craig

Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said Triple Crown games flow onto Craig fields. During some tournaments, he said, eight fields are in use for one to two days. An average of 20 teams play in Craig during the six weekends Triple Crown games are played here. Pike estimates one tournament brings more than 500 people a day just to Woodbury Park in Craig. That doesn't include the people who play games at Loudy-Simpson Park or at the Craig Middle School field.

Triple Crown doesn't pay for the use of Craig fields, but they do compensate the town with field improvements or the purchase of uniforms

or equipment for Little League teams.

Pike figures the in-kind contributions are about equal to the overtime his staff works during the weekends Triple Crown games are played in Craig.

"It's pretty close to even," he said. "We may have a little more in, but you have to take into account what they spend in the community.

Pike said the west Kum and Go reported its best day of the year one Saturday when Triple Crown games were played in Craig and that City Market reported running out of bread during a Triple Crown weekend.

"I think we're getting our money's worth," he said. "I know there's a big economic impact. I would assume if you ask our merchants if they like Triple Crown, they'd say 'yes.'"

Beds and baseball

Pike said the current situation is perfect. Craig doesn't have the beds to accommodate the 5,200 participants and spectators one Triple Crown tournament can bring in.

Steamboat Springs has 18,917 pillows. Craig has 463 beds.

"Here, we just feel an impact in our lodging because it helps fill hotels," Pike said. "It works out real well for Craig because Steamboat can accommodate them to sleep and we get them here to buy gas and shop."

According to Mikki O'Brien, manager of the Craig Holiday Inn, the hotel rents to about 12 teams a month, which makes up for 10 percent of its summer business.

The city of Craig, Craig Chamber of Commerce and the Moffat County Tourism Association all sent letters to the Steamboat Springs City Council asking for its continued support of Triple Crown because of the economic benefit it brings to the Yampa Valley.

"We did that because of the economic impact to this area," Cathy Vanatta, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said. "For people who live (in Steamboat Springs) I can see how it would be a nightmare, but I have to look at the economic impact. I'm a big promoter of tourism because I think it's a real clean industry."

Paying to play

Craig residents haven't complained about Triple Crown, but that doesn't mean the city would be willing to support it financially something Evans-Hall has said the Steamboat chamber may request.

"We would have to look long and hard at what we would get out of it," Pike said. "If we did fund it partially, we'd want some of the finals to be played in Craig."

Traditionally, players lodge in whatever town their finals are played in and currently all finals are played in Steamboat Springs.

Since the city of Steamboat Springs probably won't participate financially to secure a five-year contract with Triple Crown, it is unknown how the event will be funded.

"We're asking for the chamber to come up with that money now," Connell said.

Evans-Hall won't release any details of the proposed contract, only saying she believes the contract amount will be different than it has been in the past.

She also said the chamber is willing to meet that financial obligation so the town could continue to

reap the benefits, but she wouldn't say how the money would be

raised.

"For a small investment, there's a great return," Evans Hall said. "We think it's a win-win situation for everyone."

Triple Crown brings more than 33,000 people to Steamboat Springs during the summer.

A Chamber Resort Association study estimated the average length of stay was four and a half days and the average per person daily expenditure was $70.

"That was from five years ago, so we think it's a conservative amount," Evans-Hall said.

Games are played in June, July and August on eight different weekends and fields in Craig, Hayden, Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs are used.

"It has been discussed to ask Craig and Hayden to participate financially," Evans-Hall said. "We may look into that down the road."

Connell also believes towns who reap the benefit should pay.

"Triple Crown impacts the vitality of Craig and Hayden, too," she said. "It's important to your town's economy, too. I think it's something Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs can collaborate on. We are the Yampa Valley.

"I think the things that impact Steamboat Springs impact Craig. We're beyond thinking

were separate."

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