Lincoln Avenue closing Friday

City will shut down street for Olympian send-off

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— Steamboat Springs city officials will close two blocks of Lincoln Avenue for most of the day Friday, saying any hassle the closure will cause motorists is worth the opportunity to celebrate the city's Olympic athletes.

The 2002 Olympian Celebration and Send-Off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday at the Routt County Courthouse lawn. The event will honor the 15 Steamboat athletes competing at the Olympics the most of any community in the country as well as past local Olympians.

To accommodate the festivities, the city will close Lincoln Avenue between Fifth and Seventh streets from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Though the celebration doesn't officially start until 6 p.m., it will take the entire day to prepare for it, City Clerk Julie Jordan-Struble said.

"It's amazing how much work it takes to make it happen," Jordan-Struble said.

A stage will be placed in front of the Routt County Courthouse on Lincoln Avenue to hold the local athletes, as well as the 2002 U.S. Women's Hockey Team, the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team and the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. After introducing the Olympians, the band Liquid Soul will play until 11:30 p.m.

Also, a large movie screen will be constructed to show two short productions about past and current Steamboat Olympic athletes, followed by a fireworks display.

Setup for the event is expected to take all day, Jordan-Struble said.

In July, a massive traffic jam ensued when Lincoln Avenue was closed for a cattle drive celebrating Independence Day. Lincoln Avenue U.S. 40 is a major thoroughfare in Northwest Colorado and runs through the heart of Steamboat.

"We learned a lot from the cattle drive," Jordan-Struble said, "and we really thought hard about this."

Though 13 hours is the longest closure of Lincoln Avenue that Jordan-Struble can remember, it's only on two blocks, unlike the cattle drive which closed most of Lincoln through downtown as well as Yampa Avenue.

Officials considered keeping Lincoln Avenue open during Friday's setup but realized the stage is too large to put on the courthouse yard, she said. It also would mean people watching the show could spill out onto the street, causing obvious hazards.

City Council President Cathy Connell said this is one event residents shouldn't mind being inconvenienced by because it's truly a "local" celebration honoring athletes who will represent the Yampa Valley and the United States on a world stage.

"This is not some outside corporation or something to do with tourism; this is us," Connell said. "We should be making some noise."

The concept for the celebration came from Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., which worked with the city and the county to develop the idea, Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said.

Also, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and more than 20 local merchants and residents are financially sponsoring the celebration, Wirth said.

"We are not getting something that has great media value. The sponsors are looking at this as sponsoring a local event," Wirth said.

The city knows there will be traffic delays caused by the celebration but hopes most people just bite the bullet.

"We do expect complaints and there is going to be a traffic impact," Jordan-Struble said. "We feel it's worth it."

Traffic officially will be detoured onto Oak Street, but locals are encouraged to find their own detours, such as Yampa Avenue or Pine Street, she said.

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