Officials comment on Hayden, Dinosaur casino projects

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A group of Yampa Valley business partners announced in March their interest in developing a venture new to Northwest Colorado.

After more than 50 meetings with a variety of entities the past six months, Steamboat Springs resident Steve Hofman said Monday the time to present to the public information for an Indian gaming facility in Hayden is approaching.

“We have understood from the very beginning that not only would the opportunity for public comment and input be appropriate, but essential,” Hofman said. “We fully anticipate having those discussions and having the public ask questions we believe we have answers to, and if they ask questions we don’t have answers to, then we’re going to be obligated to get them answers.

“That’s been our approach through this entire process.”

Hofman represents one piece of the business group that also includes Steamboat Springs winter Olympian Johnny Spillane, Hayden resident Dave Marin, Hayden developer Stefanus Nijsten and Nijsten’s business partner Bob Zibel.

Zibel is the owner of a 187-acre tract off Routt County Road 51A near Yampa Valley Regional Airport, the proposed site for a casino and hotel.

On Friday, Rob Douglas, a guest columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, cited the nearly three months that have passed since the project was first announced publicly in urging elected officials to press the public vetting process.

Douglas argued the responsibility to educate the public on the proposed casino does not rest solely on the shoulders of the business partnership, but on those of elected representatives throughout the Yampa Valley.

Hofman said Douglas’ call for action isn’t necessary. He and his partners have been planning for the last month to present documents to the public.

Hofman, however, did not want to say specifically when those documents would be available for public viewing, citing certain preparations that have not yet been finalized.

For example, designers have not yet finished artist renderings of what the casino/hotel could look like.

Additionally, the casino partnership contracted with Scott Ford and Kate Nowak of Yampa Valley Data Partners to compile economic projections specific to each community in the Yampa Valley.

“Assessing the prospects for a business whether it’s a corner candy store or a casino involves a thoughtful comprehensive review of the economics of the project, among other factors,” Hofman said. “Building a business and moving forward on a project like this requires a lot of effort and thoughtful decision making.”

The casino partners also have plans to launch an interactive website to serve as an avenue for the public to provide input and ask questions about the project, in addition to being a source to view informational documents about the casino and partnership.

The website is under construction, Hofman said.

“The website will start that (public comment) process because we’ll put into the public domain everything we have,” Hofman said. “Then we’ll start the process of reaching out to the general public, as opposed to what we have been doing for the last six months, which is how it should be.”

Moffat County residents are encouraged to weigh in on the project as soon as the website is active, Hofman said.

“Job impacts, economic impacts will reach far and wide throughout the valley,” Hofman said. “We believe everyone affected should be heard on this.”

L.D. Smith, Dinosaur town mayor, said little has changed in his community's bid to bring an Indian gaming facility to the far west end of Moffat County.

In October 2011, Dinosaur officials began discussing plans for a casino, hotel and restaurant with the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray reservation in Fort Duchesne, Utah.

In March, Denver-based Gaming Market Advisors completed a feasibility study for the project and turned it over to Ute Tribe officials.

Smith has not yet seen results of the study.

“We’re just waiting to hear back from the tribe. It’s still in their hands,” Smith said. “I was hoping to break ground this summer, but that may not happen until later.”

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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