Town not for or against complex

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It's too early to get excited or upset about the possibility of a Triple Crown sports complex in Hayden.

Town Manager Russ Martin stressed that discussions about possible sites are very preliminary and, with no clear plans on the table, it's premature to judge how such a project would fit into the town.

"The whole idea is to narrow it down to a few sites -- whether in Hayden, Craig or Steamboat -- and we can start getting public comment," he said.

Martin was among a group of community representatives and others who met last week to discuss Triple Crown's future in the region and the organization's need for 16 to 24 new baseball diamonds.

Triple Crown's contracts with the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association expire in 2007. President Dave King said at the meeting that the organization will leave if a new sports complex is not built in the region.

The Hayden Town Board and Economic Development Council held a work session several weeks ago to discuss its interest in having a 120-acre sports complex.

"Hayden is somewhat of an obvious location from the standpoint of available land and large tracts of flat ground," Martin said.

At this point, the town neither is for nor against a Triple Crown sports complex, but officials remain open to the idea.

"In my mind, it's like a big industry," Martin said. "You entertain it and try to figure out what it's going to do positive or negative.

"That's where we are now, in the exploratory stages."

There is private land in all directions that may accommodate such a project, though the town has not yet contacted landowners about the possibility, he said.

Earlier this summer, Hayden officials considered Triple Crown in plans for Dry Creek Park. Hayden is using a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to build a soccer field there, and -- in the upcoming budgeting and grant cycles -- it will be looking to build multi-use fields and other park amenities.

But a few fields are different from a full-blown athletic complex. Although Triple Crown likely will have access to new fields in Dry Creek Park, a large sports complex will not be built there, Martin said.

Many questions have yet to be answered, but it's clear that no matter where such a project is located, planning, funding and management will have to be a regional effort, he said.

Although Steamboat is a big pull for vacationing players, 65 percent of games are played on fields in Craig, Hayden and Oak Creek, King said.

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree was among the players at last week's meeting.

Based on discussions so far, it's too early to say where Hayden stands in the mix of interested players, King said, adding that there's still a lot of ground closer to Steamboat to consider.

"My feeling is there's a lot of stakeholders in Northwest Colorado public and private that have shown initial interest in moving forward," he said.

The only private landowner that has contacted King so far is Ron Sills, a Steamboat Springs resident and partner in the Villages at Hayden -- a large residential development slated for south of downtown.

That development, planned in multiple phases, will have a lot of open space, some of which may be appropriate for an athletic complex, Sills said.

Triple Crown representatives and other players plan to visit possible sites in that development, as well as other areas in the region in September.

"I think after this next meeting, we'll be a lot more set for what's going to happen," he said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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