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Sports complex met with skepticism

Commissioners hesitant to support Hayden project

Brandon Gee

Preliminary statistics

Numbers for the proposed sports complex in Hayden.

Developed acreage: 87 acres

Future improvements acreage: 54 acres

Total property acreage: 141 acres

Baseball/softball fields: 10

Multi-use fields: 10

Approximate parking required: 600 to 900 spaces

— Continuing efforts to construct a regional sports complex in Hayden were met with skepticism by the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.

Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin and Sandy Evans Hall, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, went before the commissioners seeking a formal letter of support for the Northwest Colorado sports complex. The letter also would state the county’s intention to make a financial contribution to the project. Such a letter would aid the town of Hayden in its pursuit of a Legacy grant for $750,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado.

While the cities of Craig and Steamboat Springs have agreed to submit such letters, the county commissioners were less willing to put their name to a project they said is too “conceptual.” The commissioners cited concerns such as funding for the $8.5 million project being up in the air and a lack of public discussion about it.

Martin said he would have preferred to have more time to discuss the project, but a Sept. 7 grant deadline required quick action. A decision to award the grant will be made by GOCO in December, and the town would have three years to put the money to use.

In the end, the commissioners agreed to write a letter supporting only “the concept of a regional sports complex,” with no commitment to provide any funds for the project.

“It’s really conceptual right now,” Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said. “We can write a conceptual letter, but it won’t have a lot of meat to it.”

Martin and Evans Hall had hoped for more.

“If there is not a clear mandate from local governments, we will probably not be approved” for the grant, Martin said.

The regional sports complex is being pursued largely to satisfy the needs of Triple Crown Sports, the sports tourism company that brings thousands of visitors to the Yampa Valley each summer. The company has indicated it may relocate its Northwest Colorado baseball and softball tournaments if a larger sports facility is not built. Triple Crown baseball games are currently scattered on fields across the region, from Craig to Oak Creek. Triple Crown’s current contract extends through next summer.

“Their need is to remain competitive in the tourist sport industry,” Evans Hall said. “I’m still of the opinion that the sports tourism business is good for our region.”

A study released in May by Denver-based consultants Corona Research found that Triple Crown brings about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in tax revenues to Northwest Colorado each summer. The findings state that losing Triple Crown would cost Northwest Colorado governments more than $43 million in tax revenues during the next 25 years. But expanding the tournaments would anger some residents who already cite excessive traffic and noise concerns caused by the influx of summer visitors.

The county commissioners also were skeptical of that study and many of its assumptions and methods. On Tuesday, Commissioner Doug Monger said he wanted to see more financial commitment from private businesses before committing more as a county.

“The major benefactors are not governments,” Monger said. “The major benefactors are private businesses.”

Martin acknowledged that many aspects of the project are in a preliminary stage, but he did not believe that was a good reason not to support the project and the grant.

“I think it would be a mistake not to support this project because it’s in its infancy,” Martin said. “I think it would be a mistake to throw away a $750,000 grant.”

While the GOCO grant would make up less than 9 percent of the total cost of the sports complex as currently proposed, Evans Hall and Martin said it would be an important first step. And Martin said supporting the grant is not the same thing as supporting the complex. Martin said he and the to wn of Hayden haven’t even made up their minds about whether they want the complex.

“I’m the only one providing any leadership at this point,” Martin said. “I’m very frustrated, personally, because people feel like this is my project. That’s absolutely incorrect. But when opportunity is in front of you, you need to at least give it all the opportunity you can to work.”

Evans Hall said the project has been tough, primarily because it involves a complex located in Hayden, while the primary beneficiary will be Steamboat Springs.

“There’s a lot of pieces to be pulled together,” Evans Hall said. “It’s not your typical project.”

Martin said he wishes Steam-boat Springs, as the primary beneficiary, would provide more resources to the effort. Both Evans Hall and Martin said they are looking forward to a Sept. 11 work session with the city to see what its hesitations are. Martin said the project is nothing without city support.

Martin and County Manager Tom Sullivan said the frustrating process demonstrates the difficulties of pulling together a project involving multiple government entities.

“There’s no model for us to follow,” Martin said. “When we have to get involved in the details of project development on a regional scale, holy cow, that’s a tough thing.”

The project is caught in a vicious circle of sorts, with people unwilling to commit until the project becomes more detailed, but the project’s details depend on commitments.

“Government is risk adverse, so we want to see the details,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the current board of county commissioners has a personality that does not typically support conceptual projects, which was evident in the commissioners’ concluding remarks at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We hate putting our name behind something that we really can’t deliver on,” Monger said.


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