Steamboat commission to analyze vision for Howelsen Hill | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat commission to analyze vision for Howelsen Hill

Jack Weinstein

— The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission will meet with Howelsen Hill stakeholders Wednesday about the vision for the historic ski hill and whether it can generate revenue for the city.

Commission members also will continue a discussion that started Oct. 12 about the possible formation of a Howelsen Hill task force.

Commission Director Chris Wilson said he invited Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club officials, the Steamboat Springs Nordic Council, the city's Ice Rink Advisory Board, officials from the Howelsen Emerald Mountain Partnership and the city's Historic Preservation Commission to the work session.

It starts at 5:30 p.m. in the American Legion room at the Steamboat Springs Community Center and is open to the public.

"We're going to talk about the mission of Howelsen Hill," Wilson said, adding that the groups would discuss whether it should be a competitive ski facility or a location for special events among other uses. "We've got to have that conversation. That will help determine next steps."

He said it was important to start the discussion with stakeholders about what the community wants out of Howelsen. Then, Wilson said, the groups could brainstorm how to generate additional revenue and cut costs, ideas that could include collaboration among user groups or privatization of some services.

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Some Steamboat Springs City Council members expressed concern during Steamboat's all-day budget hearing Oct. 4 about the operation of Howelsen Hill, including a reduction in hours and whether the ski hill could be profitable.

Howelsen historically has required an annual operational subsidy from the city's general fund that in recent years has reached nearly $1 million, which also includes some support to the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. The subsidy is projected to be nearly $800,000 next year.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Jack Trautman expressed concern at the last meeting that commission members didn't have enough information from the City Council to continue the Howelsen Hill task force discussion.

City Council member Kenny Reisman has been invited and said he hopes to attend. He has a conflict as a volunteer coach for the Steamboat Springs High School boys varsity soccer team. The team is scheduled to play in the state playoffs Wednesday night in Denver, but the game could be canceled because of weather.

Reisman said he would like to hear about how Howelsen got to where it is today and what conversations about its future have taken place, especially among the groups that use the facility.

"I'm going there more for gathering information and hearing more about the conversations we have had as a means toward moving forward," he said. "It's problematic to take leaps forward without analyzing where we've been."

Wilson said the goal of the discussion was to generate some ideas for Howelsen that he or Reisman could present to the rest of the City Council. He said task force discussions could continue to another Parks and Recreation Commission meeting.

Also Wednesday night, Wilson said Whistler Park bike park planner Blair Seymour was scheduled to present alternative sites to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Planners abandoned the plan for the site between Whistler Park and Walton Creek after the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District board of directors delayed action on a decision to permit the bike park on its land.

Wednesday's meeting will be the last at the community center. Parks and Recreation Commission meetings will be televised from Centennial Hall starting Nov. 9.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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