A piece of the Triple Crown pie

Craig business leaders ponder greater role in tapping event

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Restaurants, hotels and convenience stores benefit so much from Triple Crown games that members of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership say it's worth seeing whether Craig can get a bigger piece of the pie.

"I want to see us get some of the business off this, if not the whole thing," EDP Treasurer Jackie Roberts said.

She proposes a look into what Craig could provide compared to what Triple Crown needs.

Steamboat Springs has hosted Triple Crown baseball games for 15 years, reluctantly renewing the contract in 2002.

At issue were complaints from residents that resident youths were losing access to fields and that some Triple Crown participants were rude and belligerent.

The Steamboat Springs Chamber and Resort Association lobbied hard for the renewal of a five-year contract -- even putting up most of the annual fee.

Because games spill over into Craig, Hayden and Oak Creek, the Craig Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter of support when the Steamboat Springs City Council was faced with the contract decision.

"It's economic development to me when you figure they stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants," Chamber Director Cathy Vanatta said.

She said the average person who travels to Craig in conjunction with Triple Crown spends $80 a day.

"That really helps the Moffat County Tourism Association and helps keep businesses open," Vanatta said. "To me it's a plus."

But there is a downside.

Some Craig residents have the same complaints Steamboat residents do about the event.

"As much as we all would like the money it brings in, I would just hate to see our kids lose use of fields," said Patt McCaffery, owner of the Craig KOA Campgrounds.

She says she's torn based on what she's heard from Steamboat residents and her own experiences seeing fun getting out of hand at the campground.

McCaffery said she was willing to try a little more involvement before making a final decision.

"I don't mind if we more actively host games, but we need to be prepared for some of the people," she said.

During some tournaments, eight area fields are in use for one to two days. An average of 20 teams play in Craig during the six to seven weekends Triple Crown games are played here.

Craig Parks and Recreation Director Dave 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.

But becoming the primary host for Triple Crown is a tall order to fill -- one that may be impossible.

The fee to host Triple Crown is $100,000 a year. In addition, Craig's 463 hotel rooms aren't enough to hold the estimated 5,200 participants and spectators that Triple Crown tournaments draw.

While becoming a Triple Crown host may be out of Craig's reach, getting additional games may not.

In its contract with Steamboat, Triple Crown is prevented from expanding -- though officials are talking about expanding girls softball and baseball.

Those are areas where Craig could benefit, Vanatta said.

She's working with others to get those games played in Craig.

She feels positive about the chance based on input she gets from Triple Crown players.

"The ones we get in the visitors center are always really positive about our area. They say they prefer our fields over any others," she said.

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