Triple Crown could be scaled down | SteamboatToday.com

Triple Crown could be scaled down

Negotiations under way for future of summer sports tournaments

Mike Lawrence

Triple Crown founder Dave King pitches during one of his team’s games July 5, 2008, in Steamboat Springs. The Fourth of July softball tournament will return to town this year after a hiatus in 2009.





Triple Crown founder Dave King pitches during one of his team's games July 5, 2008, in Steamboat Springs. The Fourth of July softball tournament will return to town this year after a hiatus in 2009.

Batter up

Triple Crown Sports' schedule for 2010 summer events in Steamboat Springs is similar in scope to 2009, plus the revival of a Fourth of July softball tournament, Triple Crown President Dave King said. The events and team projections include:

June 7 to 13: Mountain Magic fast-pitch softball camp and youth tournaments, 80 teams

June 18 to 20, 25 to 27: Mountain Magic baseball, total of 100 teams

July 3 to 5: Mountain Magic Fourth of July softball tournament, 65 teams

July 20 to 25, July 27 to Aug. 1, Aug. 3 to 8: Triple Crown World Series, total of 140 teams

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— A Fourth of July adult softball tournament is returning for 2010, but after this summer, Triple Crown Sports could operate on a smaller scale in Steamboat Springs.

The city's contract with the Fort Collins-based sports event provider expires after this year. Triple Crown has brought summer events including baseball and softball tournaments — and thousands of people — to Steamboat since 1982. Triple Crown President Dave King said last week that negotiations on a new contract are under way with city officials and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Although all parties agree that the city's partnership with Triple Crown should continue, King said the economic recession and increasing competition from locations that offer high-quality field complexes are changing the conversation. The result could be a reduced number of events in coming summers, he said.

"We will be making some significant changes in the future, for 2011 and beyond," King said about Triple Crown events in Steamboat Springs. "We'd love to keep our relationship, but it may be a relationship that fits the market demand."

King said last summer that the recession led to a 20 percent decrease in Triple Crown's business in Steamboat Springs in 2009.

"We saw multiple signs of the recession in our business. Our local tournaments were off across America by 10 to 25 percent," King said. "In our national events in youth sports, only five saw declines, and the other 13 were either flat or up. Steamboat was one of our host cities that saw a decline, and it was the largest decline in teams in the U.S. for Triple Crown."

Sandy Evans Hall, Chamber executive vice president, took an optimistic view of the future and said current discussions involve a five-year contract for Triple Crown.

"I think for the next five years … we're hoping that we can grow at a steady rate of 5 to 10 percent per year," Evans Hall said.

For this summer, at least, about 380 teams could make their way to Steamboat for various events from June to early August, a scope similar to last year. Returning this year, after a hiatus in 2009, is an adult softball tournament during the Fourth of July weekend that could bring 65 teams to town. Although Fourth of July adult softball tournaments in previous years drew noise complaints and other negative impacts, Evans Hall and City Manager Jon Roberts said they're open to the return.

"I think the economy has made us a lot more willing to do different things," Evans Hall said.

Roberts said the Steamboat Springs City Council decided to bring back Fourth of July adult softball "on a trial basis."

"A lot of time has passed since the previous unfortunate incidents," Roberts said. "Also, Triple Crown has instituted some additional measures that they believe will help prevent occurrence of some of the things that happened before."

Roberts said Triple Crown has strengthened its team requirements and regulations to provide a positive event. King said his customers requested a return to Steamboat.

"We got an outcry from the marketplace to do it again, and the city had changed their stance somewhat on where slow-pitch fit in the city's business model as far as summer tourism," King said. "It made sense to bring that business back to the community. … People really wanted us to keep the event going. They really wanted to be in Steamboat on the Fourth of July."

Fields and dreams

King said Triple Crown is facing increasing competition from sports event providers that offer high-quality facilities in locations such as Phoenix, Las Vegas and Palm Springs, Calif. Although he acknowledged that Steamboat Springs offers a unique attraction, with its small-town feel and Rocky Mountain resort location, he said the difference in field qualities is like comparing a ski resort's high-speed quad chairlift to a slower, two-person lift.

"You can't show up and have a two-chair lift. We've gotten to a point where we can't have that. There's a segment of the market that will do that, but there's another segment that says, 'We'll go somewhere else,'" King said. "We're still playing baseball on an all-dirt infield when the rest of America is playing on versions that look like more spring training — that's what we're competing against."

Triple Crown teams primarily play at Howelsen Hill, as well as the Strawberry Park Elementary School and Ski Town fields.

Ernie Jenkins, the city's parks supervisor, said Triple Crown is "very happy" with the city's field improvements, which he said include new backstops and fencing, new lighting at two of the four Howelsen fields and new scoreboards.

Jenkins said the new contract, like the current contract, could include requirements for dedicated city funding for continued field improvements.

Roberts downplayed the im­­portance of high-quality fields and said the city's greater priority is providing a quality experience for families.

"The quality of the existing fields for the existing programs is not a major consideration in the reasons why they're able or not able to market Steamboat Springs," he said. "Steamboat is really marketed just because it is a very desired and popular all-around experience, not only the baseball experience itself, but also the experience of the players and their families being in Steam­boat Springs."

King said Triple Crown's future in Steamboat could resemble its origins in the '80s, when Triple Crown hosted one or two tournaments here each summer.

"I'm very optimistic about a scaled-down future together, and I think it makes a lot of sense," he said. "It's been a really good relationship, so we're going to make every effort to get a solution that fits both parties right now. But it will meet the current market."

Batter up

Triple Crown Sports’ schedule for 2010 summer events in Steamboat Springs is similar in scope to 2009, plus the revival of a Fourth of July softball tournament, Triple Crown President Dave King said. The events and team projections include:

June 7 to 13: Mountain Magic fast-pitch softball camp and youth tournaments, 80 teams

June 18 to 20, 25 to 27: Mountain Magic baseball, total of 100 teams

July 3 to 5: Mountain Magic Fourth of July softball tournament, 65 teams

July 20 to 25, July 27 to Aug. 1, Aug. 3 to 8: Triple Crown World Series, total of 140 teams

Online

Learn more about specific events at http://www.triplecrownsports.com.

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