Steamboat Springs The Colorado Olympian Project cleared its first hurdle Wednesday in upgrading the ski jumps at Howelsen Hill when Gov. Bill Owens announced the state had awarded the group $50,000 to develop a plan to improve the jumps.
"This Olympic training facility is important not only to the economy of Steamboat Springs, but in maintaining Colorado as a leader in producing Winter Olympians," Owens said. "Colorado should not lose this Olympic legacy."
More Winter Olympians have trained at Howelsen Hill than any other venue in the United States; however, more and more prospective Olympians are spending time at the facility in Park City, Utah. Just six hours west of Steamboat, the Park City jumps are equipped with plastic surfaces, which allows for training year-round.
At Howelsen Hill, ski jumping is only available for about five months out of the year.
The Colorado Olympian Project, a group spearheaded by Steamboat Springs City Council President Kevin Bennett and Olympian Hank Kashiwa, hopes to put the plastic surfaces on Howelsen's jumps. Estimates are the project may cost at least $10 million.
The Park City jumps, the venue for the 2002 Olympics, were completed last year at a cost of $21 million.
The $50,000 comes from the state's Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance funds. The funds will be used to develop a strategic plan for renovating and upgrading the Howelsen jumps and identifying project costs.
"This project enjoys string and widespread local support, including city and county officials, business leaders and local coal companies who generate funds going into the Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Project," said state Sen. Jack Taylor, who recommended to Owens the funding be awarded.
Part of the motivation behind the effort to upgrade Howelsen is the facility's rich Olympic legacy. Steamboat Springs has produced 51 Olympians, and many of the ski jumpers that will be on the 2002 Olympic team are from Steamboat.