Freestyle facility could land in Steamboat

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The Lowell Whiteman School and the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club made quite an impression on Landon Sawyer during the few years he lived in Steamboat Springs.

Now, more than two years after his death, there is a chance the freestyle skier might leave a lasting impression of his own, in the form of a training center.

"Nothing is certain right now," said Rick DeVos, executive director of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. "We are just trying to help meet the goals and wishes of the family. If their wishes work with the long-term goals of our club, then that would be great."

When Sawyer died in a skiing accident in 2002, he left many friends and former teammates in Steamboat who remember him fondly, but his memorial appeared to be taking shape in Keystone as part of the Landon Morley Sawyer Freestyle Cen--ter.

The world-class training center was slated to have an outdoor water ramp, weight training facility and indoor foam jumping pit.

It was expected to open in the spring of 2004, but problems with nearby homeowners, and, more recently, Vail Resorts, which operates Keystone, kept the facility from getting off the ground. A disagreement about the level of insurance needed at the center proved to be the final straw, and, in December, the Landon Sawyer Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships and training programs to young skiers, decided it was time to give up on the Keystone location.

Last Tuesday, when moving trucks arrived in Steamboat Springs with weight-lifting and gymnastics-oriented equipment from the Keystone facility, it appeared that Steamboat might provide a new home for Sawyer's legacy.

The equipment is being stored at Lowell Whiteman, but it still doesn't mean the state-of-the-art facility will open in Steamboat.

"To be honest, we don't have a firm arrangement, yet," DeVos said. "It (the training center) would be a good opportunity for the Winter Sports Club, but there are still a lot of details that must be worked out."

DeVos said he is excited about the possibilities the center would provide not only for athletes, but also for coaches. The center also would offer a variety of programs aimed at training coaches.

In the next month, DeVos hopes the Winter Sports Club and the Sawyer family will be able to come to terms on exactly how the facility will fit in Steamboat.

DeVos would like to see a training center that could elevate freestyle and snowboarding athletes and appeal to the club's Alpine and Nordic skiers.

He said issues about how the center would sustain itself and what types of opportunities it would offer also need to be worked out.

While some equipment has been moved to Steamboat, DeVos was unclear about what the center would offer in terms of amenities and, most importantly, where it would be located. He expects most of the questions to be cleared up in the next 30 to 45 days and thinks he will have a clearer picture of the facilities future in Steamboat at that time.

He said the Sawyers have looked at several locations in Steamboat and that a large warehouse could house the current equipment and be used for the center. That space could be rented until a more permanent home could be built in an appropriate location.

Steamboat already has a water-ramp training facility at Bald Eagle Lake, so the new center is expected to be less lavish than the one that was proposed for Keystone.

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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