Number crunching

Bubble, club house likely to be absent from budget talk


When the Steamboat Springs City Council meets Tuesday for its annual budget retreat, it will be sharing Centennial Hall with two very large elephants.

The $1.98 million cost to replace the tennis bubble and the $4 million cost to build a clubhouse at Haymaker Golf Course are by far the largest expenditures the council could fund in 2005. But the council has agreed not to discuss the projects at Tuesday's budget retreat, preferring to wait until both user groups come before the council later this month.

The elephants in the corner, however, should not affect how the council allocates the rest of its budget, city staff and council members have said.

City Manager Paul Hughes called the budget a "recovery budget" from the past few years of lean spending. The total amount of expenditures is about 11 percent more than last year.

The city staff is proposing a $43.7 million budget. The number includes $1.1 million in community support, $4.3 million for the Parks and Recreation Department and $4.7 million for public safety services. The city has budgeted $7.8 million for capital projects.

City Council President Paul Strong expects the top two capital projects -- the tennis bubble and the golf clubhouse -- to be pulled from Tuesday's budget but could be added in later. The Tennis Facility Replacement Committee is expected to come before the council Oct. 12 and the Golf Advisory Committee a week later.

"We shouldn't be considering them until we know more details," Strong said.

As listed in the budget, funding for the tennis bubble replacement is expected to come out of the general fund. The general fund has a suggested $7.8 million budgeted from projects ranging from ambulance replacements to ball-field expansions to buying transit buses.

The estimated cost to replace the bubble is almost more than double any other item on that list.

Strong said because the money is coming from the general fund and part of the city's $8 million in reserves, waiting to decide the tennis bubble issue should not affect other funding decisions.

"If we decide not to fund the tennis bubble, it is other money used elsewhere in the five-year capital improvements list," he said.

The money will be well-spent on the tennis facility, members of the Tennis Facility Replacement Committee say.

Tennis Center Director Jim Swiggart easily can point out where the bubble's plastic UVR protection has fallen off the cloth fabric structure. The clear, flaky material lies in piles in the surrounding grass.

He also points to the rips and tears that came when the bubble collapsed a few years ago and when vandals slashed its side. When the bubble, which is kept up by generated air, fell a few years ago, the cloth got dirty, causing its reflective light to lessen.

The bubble also traps water near its seams and, for 30 to 35 days a year, water drips onto the indoor facility's courts. And the drainage system causes puddles around the inside of the bubble.

The cloth fabric structure has a life of 12 to 15 years, Swiggart said. Built in 1991, the bubble is in its 13th year.

"I'll be real surprised if this lasts another two winters," he said.

The Tennis Center is a heavily used facility, Swiggart said, with 92 percent of its court time used during the winter. Swiggart said the facility sees 1,500 residents on its courts each year and 500 can be categorized as avid users, playing more than six times in a month. More than 2,000 people come to Steamboat a year, many with their families, just to play tennis at the facility, he said.

The city's budgeted $1.98 million is expected to cover a rigid frame and fabric structure, which members of the Tennis Facility Replacement Committee saw as the best option for replacing the tennis bubble. The cost for the frame and fabric structure, which would have a 25-year life span, was estimated at about $1.1 million when the group last came before the council in July.

The committee has said outside fund raising could help defray the city's cost by $300,000 or more.

The committee also proposed renovating the facility's concrete and drainage system and remodeling the administrative offices, locker rooms, reception area and restrooms.

Two new indoor courts, which would increase the number of indoor courts to six, also are being proposed.

The Golf Advisory Committee has equally strong arguments about why they city should fund a $4 million golf clubhouse. Members of the golf committee have told the council that adding a higher end clubhouse would attract more out-of-town players and corporate groups and that its current facilities do not meet the industry standard or the quality of the course.

According to plans, the new clubhouse would have a 6,300-square-foot main floor with a pro shop, restaurant and restrooms. Underneath the main floor would be a 6,300-square-foot area for golf cart and equipment storage.

User fees cover golf-course operations. The city's accommodation tax, which brings in more than $600,000 a year, pays off the $4.9 million cost of building the golf course.

The accommodation tax not used for debt service is held over for capital projects. The golf fund has about $2.5 million in reserves.

The golf committee members said the group intends to use $1.5 million of the reserves on the clubhouse. The remaining $2.5 million could be funded through lease-purchase financing, a funding mechanism that does not require voter approval. The city built Centennial Hall through lease-purchase financing. An extension of the accommodation tax, which is designated for above-ground city amenities to promote tourism, also could be used for funding.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail


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