Our View: Cart before the horse

— It's early in the pitch count for those hoping to construct a regional sports complex in Hayden, but they already have a strike against them.

Routt County commissioners expressed concern about the funding of the proposed $8.5 million, 10 mulit-use ball fields, so much so they were reluctant to send a formal letter of support for a $750,000 Great Outdoors Colorado, or GOCO, Legacy grant.

In the end, the Routt County commissioners agreed to send the letter, but stipulated that they only agree to the concept of a regional sports complex.

However, they did not make a commitment to offer future funds for the project.

What does matter in regard to Moffat County and Craig? A great deal.

Those seeking to bring a regional sports complex cite the monies to be earned from sports tourism as the project's benefit. Conversely, if the new complex is not built, Triple Crown Sports, a sports tourism company that brings thousands of visitors to the area, could pull up its Northwest Colorado roots.

The big concern?

Triple Crown has indicated that if a new complex is not built, it may relocate its baseball and softball tournaments to another location.

If that happens, Moffat County and Craig could lose an estimated $135,000 in tax revenue and 40.5 jobs on a yearly basis, according to Denver-based firm Corona Research. Northwest Colorado as a whole could lose much more - an estimated $1.2 million in tax revenue and 266 jobs yearly.

If the new complex is built, Moffat County wouldn't see much of a financial impact in gains, while Routt County could see significantly more money and jobs.

So, why are the Routt County commissioners reluctant to give support to a project that benefits its area more? And why at the same time are the city of Craig and the city of Steamboat city councils sending letters of support for the grant, while also stating they would support the project in the future?

For the very reason the Routt County Commissioners wrote a conceptual letter. At this point, it's a conceptual project.

Where most of that estimated $8.5 million to construct the proposed complex is going to come from is still unknown.

The editorial board understands this concern, but it also agrees with Craig City Manager Jim Ferree's statement that a new sports complex "would be great for the area."

Ferree explained Friday that the Craig City Council did say in its letter for the GOCO grant that it would continue to support the sports complex in the future, but at this point, that doesn't mean the city has agreed to fund the complex.

This doesn't mean the city won't.

But it doesn't mean the city will. It could simply help coordinate efforts to fund the complex, or it could help fund it, or both.

And while it puts proponents of the sports complex in a strange spot - you have verbal support, but you're not sure what kind of financial support you will get from government agencies - it's the right stance to take.

Because at this point, the cart is in front of the horse, and it is hard to steer or commit to a project like that.

And in the final analysis, it is Routt County that will benefit the most from the new sports complex. While the editorial board believes the sports complex is needed, the city of Craig and Moffat County should pay their share, and their share only.

If, in the end, the expected funding is proportional to the benefit for each community, then it comes down to this:

Play ball.

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