Nobody wants to see heavy equipment moving dirt on the steep-pitched face of Howelsen Hill more than John Adams, the chairman of the Colorado Ski Heritage project.
But as the final days of summer slip away, Adams and the people who are spearheading an effort to improve the ski jumps at Howelsen have come to the realization that it's too late in the construction season to begin work on the jumps.
"To open the hill now would be foolish," Adams said. "We started late on the design. I wish it was June right now, but we just got everything together and it's September."
Adams said the last thing project organizers want to do is rush just for the sake of getting it done. He said work already has begun on the $400,000 upgrade in snowmaking, which will be completed this fall.
But work where the current K-50 hill now stands will not begin until next spring. The hope is that construction on that phase of the project can begin next June and that Steamboat athletes will be using a new, plastic-covered K-68 jump by this time next year.
"Right now, we will proceed with the snowmaking and lines to the jumps, so that it is ready to go by next summer. The snowmaking improvements will double the capacity to make snow at Howelsen this winter."
Linda Kakela, city director of intergovernmental services, said the project has been on track to raise the needed $2.45 million for most of the summer. But getting everything to come together at the right time to start construction has been tricky.
"The convergence of funding the project and the cost estimate bids have put us too late in the construction season," Kakela said. "We could move ahead, but we thought it would be more appropriate not to count on Mother Nature."
Supporters need to raise about $130,000 more to reach the project's goal for completion. Kakela said she is waiting for final bids from TCD, the general contractor, before moving ahead on the fund-raising front.
"We are planning on approaching several funding sources to fill that gap," Kakela said. "But we want to know exactly how much money we need to raise before we make that step."
Despite the fact that work will not begin on the jumps until next spring, Kakela said there will be plenty of work taking place at Howelsen in the next few weeks.
"A substantial amount of work will take place on the flats this fall," Kakela said. "Snowmaking is key to this project, and we are pleased that it will be completed by October."
Michael Beasley, the director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, will be on hand for an official groundbreaking at 5 p.m. Thursday at Howelsen Hill.
The Department of Local Affairs oversees the Energy Impact Assistant Fund, a grant from which will cover about 50 percent of the cost of the ski jump improvements.
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