Hayden weighs Triple Crown

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— Whether in liquor stores, T-shirt shops, grocery aisles or condominium units, the money Triple Crown softball and baseball players pump into Steamboat Springs' economy is readily apparent.

But besides the sport utility vehicles and minivans speeding downtown Jefferson Avenue, the games' affects on Hayden -- which, with other outlying communities, accommodates more than 60 percent of the games -- aren't as obvious.

But because the event's success in Steamboat is largely dependent upon Triple Crown's contracts with nearby communities, Hayden leaders and business owners are optimistic the town can lure more Triple Crown dollars.

"Our biggest problem is we don't have the ability to accommodate them at this point, either in ball fields or in lodging," said Lorraine Johnson, owner of Rainbow Sporting Goods and Mount Harris Liquors.

That could change with plans for more ball fields and a new hotel in the town, Hayden economic development leaders say.

Though Johnson sees an increase in sales during Triple Crown season -- particularly during adult games, which translate into more liquor sales -- she doesn't count on the extra business, she said.

This year, Triple Crown has held games in Steamboat and outlying towns for eight weekends -- most of the summer.

More than 300 youth teams, each averaging about 18 athletes and coaches, played games during the Triple Crown World Series Baseball tournaments which took place over three weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. Overall, there were about 100 more teams in the area than last year, said Sean Hardy, Triple Crown's national baseball director.

Wolf Mountain Pizza was "slammed" several days because of the games, but overall the events did not have a huge impact business, owner Ross Barnhardt said

"It has helped, maybe not quite as much as we would have liked it to," said Barnhardt, who put up a billboard at the fields advertising his pizza shop.

Though Triple Crown business at the Hayden Mercantile is nothing overwhelming, manager Dave Hayden said it's

something he'd like to see more of in the future.

"We always like to see more business," he said.

This is the sixth year Triple Crown softball and baseball teams have used two fields at Hayden Valley Elementary School and two fields in Oak Creek. The organization also has a contract with Craig, which provides eight playing fields. Even though most games are played outside of Steamboat, lodges and other businesses in the resort benefit from 95 percent of players' spending dollars. Available fields in outlying communities, however, allow the organization to bring more than double the teams than would be possible with just Steamboat's fields at one time, Hardy said.

"That's the only reason we can bring 139 teams ... we couldn't do that without those guys," Hardy said. "(Steamboat's) lodging would not be full without Hayden, Oak Creek and Craig."

Though small, Triple Crown's contributions to Hayden's summer business shouldn't be taken lightly, Don Johnson, member of the Hayden Economic Development Commission, said.

"I think it's a big deal," he said. "They spend a considerable amount of money here."

Commission chairman Terry Jost said the town could benefit more from Triple Crown games.

"I think as we increase our facilities, that will definitely help us to attract more of that activity," he said.

The Hayden Town Board opened the door for that possibility when they agreed to revise the plan for Dry Creek Park to include the option to build two baseball fields. Though the aim was to provide residents with more recreation options, the fields could help accommodate Triple Crown activity, Town Manager Russ Martin said. In addition to more playing areas, business leaders such as Jack Giessinger, also a member of the town's Economic Development Commission, suggested more lodging -- such as the 60-unit hotel possibly planned for west Hayden -- might help keep players in town.

"If we could get some of those people to stay here it would be a great benefit for all concerned," he said.

Triple Crown events, however, are based in Steamboat because of its pull as a resort destination. So even with more accommodations in outlying areas, most players likely will stay in Steamboat, Hardy said.

Steamboat lodging numbers show that hotels and motels also are less popular among Triple Crown teams than condos, which provide families more room and the option to cook meals rather than eat out. Martin expects that the Town Board and Economic Development Commission will spend time this winter weighing the positive and negative aspects of hosting the games. Though the events help boost business, they also are a burden on the town's public works department, which prepares the fields and cleans up after games, he said.

"I think there are definitely some positive aspects to the business community, but there is a lot of work the town has to put in to accommodate these guys," Martin said.

Ultimately, the town needs to determine whether Triple Crown business is something it can count on and, if so, what the town needs to do to encourage players to patronize its businesses, he said.

To help the communities providing playing fields for its teams, Triple Crown puts about $2,500 into facility improvement in the towns each year. Hardy estimated the organization has donated about $16,000 toward fencing and sod at the Hayden fields and an irrigation system for fields in Oak Creek. Triple Crown also contributes baseball products to local youth associations, he said.

Triple Crown's three-year contract with Hayden will come up for renewal after next season, two years before Steamboat's contract with the organization ends. As long as the events are based in Steamboat, organizers say they will try to renew their agreements with Hayden and other communities. "The physical scope of the event requires that we have an active relationship with all the outlying facilities," Triple Crown president Dave King said.

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