Businesses gear up for crowds

Triple Crown credited with packing lodging establishments

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— Youth baseball is driving a 9-percent increase in resort traffic in Steamboat this weekend.

Triple Crown Sports is hosting 110 boys baseball teams in a regional tournament that began Friday and continues through Sunday. It will also involve play in Craig, Hayden and Oak Creek.

Chamber Executive Vice-President Sandy Evans-Hall said she believes the baseball tournament is the primary reason the lodging barometer maintained by her office is forecasting 10,066 visitors in Steamboat tonight. That's up 9 percent from the corresponding Saturday in 2000, and the number could grow. The lodging barometer statistics were current as of Wednesday.

"That's a good solid number," Evans-Hall said.

On June 24, 2000, the chamber's forecast was for 8,450 pillows, equating to 60 percent of the available "pillows" in town occupied. This year, the occupancy rate is forecast to be 69 percent.

By comparison, a moderate weekend in ski season might yield 74 percent occupancy in the resort. That was the case on Jan. 20 when Steamboat was just shy of 12,000 visitors.

Comparisons of occupancy in 2001 over 2000 must take into account the fact that the resort's bed base grew by 2,600 pillows in the last year to a total of 20,200.

The chamber has successfully urged Triple Crown President Dave King to shift the tournaments his organization hosts here away from adult tournaments toward youth events. Part of the reason is that young baseball and softball players are more apt to travel with family members. This weekend's tournament involves players ages 8 to 16.

The lodging barometer shows mountain condos have benefited significantly from this weekend's increase in business as a category, they show 60 percent occupancy compared to 44 percent on the same Saturday night last summer.

Bob Milne of Steamboat Resorts said the Thunderhead Lodge in Ski Time Square will be the busiest of the properties he manages this weekend.

"Our occupancy is 12 percent ahead of last year," Milne said. "It's mostly related to baseball. But our general resort business is up as well, just by a smaller percentage.

The Thunderhead will do very good business this weekend, followed closely by the Lodge (condominiums). The Thunderhead's occupancy is 80 percent. The others are in the 65 percent range."

The chamber's barometer reports that while mountain condos are up 16 percent, downtown lodging properties are off 19 percent to 49 percent occupancy.

Greg Koehler of the Rabbit Ears Motel said that won't be the case at his downtown property. His motel is sold out this weekend as it has been throughout weekends in June.

"We have some Triple Crown business, but we also have a wedding, some seniors and some general traffic from people coming up for the weekend," Koehler said.

So far, the weekend of June 29-30 is a little soft, Koehler said, at 60 percent full, and he still has seven rooms left on July 3 and four left on July 4.

The fact that July 4 falls on a Wednesday could be a factor in holiday bookings, Evans-Hall said. Koehler reports that the weekends of July 13-14 and 20-21 are already booked solid at the Rabbit Ears with July 27-28 very close and Aug. 1-5 already sold out.

Koehler said he can't discern that the two-day concert on July 3-4 involving the String Cheese Incident is improving his business.

"It hasn't impacted me at all," Koehler said.

Milne, whose properties are closer to the concert venue on the Headwall ski trail, reports the same thing.

"The Fourth of July concert hasn't helped us at all," Milne said. "We're not seeing any business from it at all. I hope it sends us some business because we're spending money on extra security and we're looking at parking restrictions."

Concert co-promoter John Waldman told Steamboat Today about 10,000 tickets have been sold between the two days of the show, and he expects that number to grow.

Milne's company, among the largest property management companies in Steamboat, has aggressively marketed golf packages involving the city-owned Haymaker Golf Course in past summers. He said his business attributed to golf packages is down this year compared to last.

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