Craig not out of running for Triple Crown sports complex

Hayden residents have offered two sites for a possible sports complex, but that doesn't mean Craig is out of the running.

Triple Crown President Dave King, the driving force behind a proposed complex, said it's still too early in the process for decisions to be made.

The summer sports organization contracts with Steamboat Springs to play baseball and softball in Northwest Colorado. Those games overflow onto Hayden and Craig fields. Earlier this month, King said the organization wouldn't return to Northwest Colorado after the current contract expires in 2007 unless new fields are built. The organization wants a 16- to 24-field sports complex.

And the town of Hayden is working hard to provide it. Two sites have been identified that meet the needs -- 120 to 160 acres of flat ground with access to utilities. One Hayden resident has offered to donate the land. Another is willing to sell.

On Thursday, Triple Crown officials offered $2,000, which was matched by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, to hire SportsOne to create conceptual plans for both sites.

There was no representative from Craig at the Thursday meeting.

Even if there had been, there was nothing to report, City Manager Jim Ferree said.

"We couldn't find any land and the property that would be ideal isn't for sale," he said. "No one ever came forward."

Parks and Recreation Department Director Dave Pike said he would have attended the meeting had he known about it.

"It's not that we don't want Triple Crown," he said. "We'd like to pursue it."

He thinks Craig may have one other place where a sports complex could be located -- Loudy-Simpson Park.

The county owns 400 acres south of the Yampa River, and that would be an ideal site for a sports complex, Pike said.

There are considerations, however. Much of the acreage is in wetlands or a flood plain, Moffat County Parks and Recreation Director Steve Grandbouche said.

"It would take a lot of permitting to build a complex like that, and given our budget constraints, it would have to be all grant money," he said. "I don't think people understand what it takes -- laborwise to maintain it down the road."

Grandbouche said he's had informal discussions with the commissioners about the idea, but none has come forward to offer a site as a potential.

"We certainly don't want to be left out, but it's going to be hard to compete with a 120-acre site that offers anything," Pike said.

And, it's not too late. Despite the fact that plans are being made for the two Hayden sites, King said other sites are still being reviewed.

He's had calls from Steam--boat residents offering sites since Thursday's meeting.

"Obviously there's still room for discussion," King said. "This is very early in the process."

He wants to see a variety of options that will hopefully be narrowed to two by January and decided upon using a public process that people from Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs participate in.

Funding for the complex has long been a question that remains unanswered.

King said he hopes the three communities and Triple Crown also will invest in what will be a regional complex, and that money will be used as a local match for grant dollars.

The biggest concern, he said, is how to pay for operating and maintaining the complex. That has yet to be determined.

Pike said that when he first heard of Triple Crown's need, he thought Craig could provide half the fields needed and Hayden the other half.

The economic benefit is why officials are working so hard to meet Triple Crown's needs. Tournaments draw an estimated 5,200 participants and spectators. Surveys indicate each of those visitors spends $80 a day on food, lodging and recreation.

West Kum & Go Manager Debbie Knez said business is booming during the eight to 10 weeks each summer when there are games in Craig.

"We're slammed," she said. "We do really well when they're here."

Having a sports complex in Hayden means the convenience store wouldn't get the business it's getting now.

Hotels and restaurants would still benefit, though.

"We'd still get something from Hayden," said Denny Goucher, general manager of Village Inn. "We're only 20 minutes away, and there aren't many places to eat or stay in Hayden."

She would advocate for having a sports complex in Craig, though.

"Anything that drums up more business," she said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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