Craig's chances for Triple Crown unclear

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Without a new facility, Triple Crown Sports will take its ball and go home in 2007.

The Fort Collins-based company organizes and markets amateur sports tournaments in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Craig.

Triple Crown President Dave King said his first choice is to stay in Northwest Colorado beyond 2007, when a contract with Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expires. But Triple Crown is searching for a site to build 16 to 24 fields. If it can't find the land, it could take its tournaments elsewhere.

"Right now, we don't have enough real good facilities in Northwest Colorado," King said.

Triple Crown officials have said the Steamboat fields are old and outdated.

So the burning questions are: Where will the company build a sports complex, and who will put up the millions of dollars for construction?

Cost estimates to build a single field in the complex range from $150,000 to $450,000, depending on water availability to the land and the work necessary to develop the parcel.

On the low end, with 16 fields at $150,000, the cost to build the complex would start at about $2.4 million.

The Triple Crown tournaments pump about $10 million into Steamboat's economy each year, according to reports.

Triple Crown's desire to stay in the region beyond 2007 means Craig is in the running to host more games if the complex is built here. As it stands, Craig gets Steamboat's overflow during tournaments.

The tournaments attract thousands of people to the region for nine weeks every summer, a possible boon to Craig's economy, which is heavily dependent on the thousands of visitors that come here for the fall hunting season. Triple Crown tournament spectators and participants spend an average of $80 a day, according to surveys.

Local officials have met with Triple Crown officials in recent weeks to discuss keeping the tournaments in the area.

But officials haven't been able to find a parcel of land near Craig that could accommodate the 16 to 24 fields Triple Crown says it needs for the sports complex.

Hayden and Steamboat al----ready have designated land that could be used by Triple Crown.

But local officials haven't found the right tract, Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said.

If the city or county can find a piece of land that doesn't require too much leveling and already has water, King said fields could be built for between $150,000 and $450,000 apiece.

If the land needs leveling or doesn't have water, the cost will be higher, King said.

Triple Crown hasn't app--roached the Moffat County com--missioners about working on a facility, but Commissioner Darryl Steele said it isn't likely the county would put up money for new baseball fields.

Commissioners recently voted to close a recreational facility -- Shadow Mountain Clubhouse -- because of budget constraints. So commissioners won't spend money on another recreational facility anytime soon, Steele said.

"We certainly are not going to jump out and make another ballpark," he said.

But it isn't just the cost of building a new facility or finding the right land for it that makes Craig a long shot to host the majority of Triple Crown's games, officials say.

King and Ferree said Craig, which has less than 500 hotel rooms, can't accommodate all the visitors that travel to the region for Triple Crown's tournaments.

In the late 1990s, when Triple Crown last considered moving to Craig, studies showed Craig could accommodate about 25 teams a weekend, King said.

But the tournaments attract more than 100 teams a weekend, King said.

With thousands more hotel rooms in Steamboat, Ferree said the other end of the valley can accommodate more people.

"The bottom line is, Steamboat Springs is always going to be the place where the majority of the games take place," Ferree said.

But even if a new facility is built in Hayden or Steamboat, Craig still will host games at Loudy-Simpson Park and Wood--bury Park, King said.

"We still intend to use what Craig has available," King said. "We have no intention to not play in Craig."


Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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