Tennis bubble funding tabled

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Steamboat Springs City Council members said they wanted more time to consider whether they wanted to fund replacing the tennis bubble.

Council members voted to table the decision, asking to see a hypothetical budget detailing how an improved facility would operate before they would agree to fund the $2.1 million replacement project. Close to 50 supporters for the tennis-bubble replacement project attended Tuesday night's meeting in Centennial Hall.

The decision was postponed to the Nov. 2 meeting, which also will be after the council hears a presentation from its Golf Management Committee on funding a $4 million golf clubhouse.

"I just don't feel comfortable yet making a decision until I a see a few more numbers," Councilman Steve Ivancie said.

During Tuesday's meeting, council members raised concerns about the $170,000 annual subsidy the city currently gives to the Tennis Center and asked whether improvements would do anything to help offset that cost. Council members also wanted to know whether the group lobbying for the tennis-bubble replacement had looked at any other ways to allow other groups to use the facility, such as Steamboat Ski Corp. and the lodging community, to generate more revenue.

Councilwoman Kathy Connell asked to see what the city's monetary support of the tennis facility was, the volume of people who use it and how much money it brings to the city. She also wanted to compare that ratio of city dollars and the amount of use to other city recreational facilities, such as Haymaker Golf Course, the Howelsen Ice Arena and Howelsen Hill.

"There is more than one group that wants to have funds from the city, and we really do need to have a ratio. It is certainly going to be important for me before I make a decision," she said.

Other council members spoke of the importance of maintaining city facilities and the importance of having recreational amenities in a resort town.

"I really think our obligation is to replace the facility," Councilman Loui Antonucci said. "As long as we can do that, we need to have the vision that will take us 10, 15, 20 years out."

Randy Reed, who is on the Tennis Facility Replacement Committee, presented to the city four options for replacing the tennis bubble. The low end was at $1.2 million, which would keep the indoor tennis facility at four courts and the existing clay courts would be resurfaced. The top end, and the option recommended by the replacement committee, was at $2.1 million and included two additional indoor courts and the resurfacing of existing clay courts.

The $2.1 million cost was more than the council had anticipated. Although the council had yet to say yes to funding the replacement project, it has earmarked $1.98 million to go toward the tennis facility in its 2005 budget.

All four options proposed replacing the cloth tennis bubble, which is kept up by air, with a framed structure with a fabric outer layer. The fabric sides could be rolled up in the summer to let in cool air. All the options also included having new heating, lighting and insulation, and building bathrooms accessible to people with disabilities, a viewing area, offices, a meeting room and additional storage.

Reed said an improved tennis facility could narrow the city's annual subsidy by reducing energy costs for heating and the air to keep the bubble up. He also said the added courts would bring in more money and that the frame and fabric structure would be significantly cooler in the summer, allowing more courts to be in use.

Reed also said the committee has committed to raising one-sixth of the costs for the replacement and that almost 50 percent of those funds have been raised in the past five weeks.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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