City OKs Triple Crown contract

But Council pulls use of Emerald Park from organization

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— The City Council approved a five-year contract with Triple Crown Sports but made Emerald Park off limits to the organization.

The decision proved to be a costly change in the eleventh hour, one that had Triple Crown founder Dave King in front of the council asking to reconsider the action after Tuesday night's meeting adjourned.

In the contract's second and final reading, the council voted 6-1 to approve the agreement but decided to keep Emerald Park off the table for good. In the previous negotiations, the city had agreed to keep Emerald Park from being used until a second access into the park was built. And when that second access happened, the city and Triple Crown would re-examine which parks were available each December.

The council said Tuesday night Emerald Park was reserved for local youths and off limits to Triple Crown.

"Emerald Park needs to come off the table," Councilman Bud Romberg said.

But after the meeting, King told City Council President Kathy Connell that retaining a core group of well-maintained fields in Steamboat was key in keeping his players coming back to the city. Right now, Triple Crown uses six fields in Steamboat and 14 in Oak Creek, Hayden and Craig.

And King said the $75,000 a year the council agreed to put toward field improvements will help Steamboat's six fields, but it would not help in upgrading the fields in outlying areas that are also below par. And having eight, not six, well-maintained fields is key, he said.

Connell spoke of private negotiations with landowners on the west side of Steamboat where land for more fields could become available.

But King did not seem willing to go on Connell's word alone that more fields would be available and asked the contract be revised to guarantee that either new fields or Emerald Park be used in three years.

Tuesday's meeting is the last time the council will meet in regular session until Aug. 19, when it comes back from its summer break. Despite an October deadline for a contract agreement, King has said he wants the agreement signed before championship tournaments start in August. King said if time runs out, other mountain resort towns are interested.

More than 50 residents and business people stayed until 10 p.m. Tuesday to voice their concerns or hear the council's decision on the contract. Although a handful of people stood before the council to oppose the contract, most were business people who claimed Triple Crown was fundamentally important to them and the local economy. Local baseball and softball players, coaches and parents also spoke about the impact Triple Crown had in building strong programs in Steamboat.

Opponents raised objections to the use of Emerald Park, long hours, too many weekend tournaments and inconsiderate Triple Crown customers.

Councilman Steve Ivancie cast the only "no" vote. Although he was happy with the rest of the council prohibiting Emerald Park, he said hours still needed to be limited.

The agreement approved by the council has the city spending $75,000 for field improvements and the hours and weekends of the tournament remaining similar to the current contract.

The agreement will also have the city paying about $31,000 a year to maintain all the facilities for the tournament and Triple Crown investing $15,000 in the city for improvements or development projects. The Chamber Resort Association has also agreed to pay the $75,000 sponsorship fee, something the city has been paying in the current five-year contract.

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