The city of Steamboat Springs' plans to build an athletic field next to the Heritage Park subdivision should move forward despite Heritage Park homeowners' concerns.
The city plans to construct an artificial-turf athletic field, to go with the existing soccer fields, at the Heritage Park complex. The field would be used, in part, by Triple Crown. The city received a $150,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant to help fund $350,000 in athletic field construction.
It is Triple Crown that worries Heritage Park homeowners. They are worried the field is too close to homes and will increase parking problems. They also said they were not given a chance to give input about the field development.
At a City Council meeting Tuesday night, the Heritage Park homeowners argued that their situation is not unlike that of homeowners who live along Pamela Lane, adjacent to Emerald Park. The four baseball fields at Emerald Park were constructed with local youth teams in mind, and Triple Crown specifically has been restricted from using those fields. (It should be noted that, in previous editorials, we have supported Triple Crown's use of the Emerald Park fields.)
During negotiations with Triple Crown in 2002, the city agreed to offer Triple Crown a plan for two to four more fields in exchange for keeping Emerald Park reserved for local teams. Triple Crown agreed to that condition in a five-year contract it signed with the city. That contract went into effect in 2003 and expires in 2007.
The field at Heritage Park is part of the city's efforts to meet the terms of that contract. The city also will pay to upgrade a field at Steamboat Springs Middle School so that Triple Crown can use the field in the summer.
The problem with the Heritage Park homeowners' complaints is that they knew -- or should have known -- that a youth sports complex always was planned in their neighborhood.
Property owner Ty Lockhart got Routt County commissioners' approval in 1997 for five athletic fields at the same time he got approval to create the Heritage Park subdivision. The city pays for the athletic fields and Lockhart leases the property to the city for $1 per year.
Not surprisingly, Lockhart doesn't have much sympathy for the homeowners' complaints. "Everybody knew what the deal was, and the deal was going to be athletic fields," Lockhart said. "It's like building next to the airport, then complaining about the noise."
He is right. It's disingenuous for homeowners to say they didn't know Triple Crown would be allowed to use the complex. Athletic fields are athletic fields -- it shouldn't matter whether Triple Crown or a local Little League team uses them.
We have said it many times before -- Triple Crown is critical to our summer tourism economy. For 10 weeks, Triple Crown attracts dozens of youth baseball and softball teams and their families -- thousands of people -- to Steamboat Springs. There is no other summer event that even comes close to attracting the volume of visitors for the length of time that Triple Crown does.
To keep Triple Crown coming back every year, Steamboat must continue to provide well-maintained fields. Long-term, that likely means a new athletic complex somewhere in the county. In the short-term, the city needs to comply with its contractual promise to provide more fields. Heritage Park is a reasonable solution, despite homeowner's objections.