Saturday, November 29, 2003
The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission will meet Dec. 10 to review a master plan for the 18-acre Bear River parcel west of the city.
We hope that what comes out of that meeting is a far different plan for the 18-acre property than what has been discussed so far.
Several meetings have been held to gather public input about the city-owned site that houses three old sewer lagoons. At those meetings, residents offered several suggestions for the area, including a skate park, a Frisbee golf course, open space, trails and a playground.
Unfortunately, the one thing residents said they do not want -- baseball and softball fields that could be used by Triple Crown Sports -- is exactly what we believe the city should consider for the site.
Last year, the city committed to Triple Crown founder Dave King that it will develop a plan for more fields for the tournament organizer to use. New fields would accomplish two things. First, the fields would allow Triple Crown to expand its presence in Steamboat Springs. Second, they would preserve the existing Emerald Park fields for use by youth leagues.
Bear River was one of five parcels that the city submitted to King as possible sites for new fields. The city is to meet with King later this year to discuss those parcels.
Triple Crown is an emotional issue for many residents. There is a loud contingent that believes the sports tournament organizer has a negative impact on the city and that the city should look to reduce or eliminate its presence.
That would be a huge mistake. Triple Crown has evolved over the years into an event that is heavily focused on family and youths. It brings thousands of visitors to Steamboat throughout the summer and no other event provides a comparable economic boost to the community.
The numbers from the past summer bear that out.
Last summer, Triple Crown brought 160 fewer teams to Steamboat, a drop of almost 20 percent. Meanwhile, businesses throughout the city reported declines. Lodging properties and restaurants suffered. Attendance at the Pro Rodeo Series was down. Sales tax receipts are down nearly 2 percent for the year, and that's against lackluster 2002 receipts.
We believe the city was right to seek residents' input on how the Bear River property should be used. But ultimately, the City Council must make a decision that is in the best interest of the community as a whole, even if that decision is politically volatile or unpopular. Such is the case with the Bear River parcel.
Steamboat already has a skate park and a Frisbee golf course. There are several playgrounds in the community including a new one that just went in at the Steamboat Springs Transit Center. There is not a compelling need to use the Bear River parcel for any of those items.
If the city builds new fields, Triple Crown will come. If not, Triple Crown will find another host. Already, Triple Crown has moved girls fast-pitch softball to Park City.
Triple Crown needs fields and Steamboat needs Triple Crown. That's something we urge the city to keep in mind as it develops the master plan for the Bear River property.