Saturday, September 24, 2005
The Steamboat Springs City Council was right to postpone plans for a new artificial turf field adjacent to Heritage Park west of the city. The field's cost and the emergence of other options are the reasons the city should wait. The concerns of Heritage Park homeowners are less valid.
The city already has agreed to move forward with a Tennis Center project that will cost nearly $1 million more than estimated. Against that backdrop, it would have been financially foolish to sign off on the athletic field when the only bid came in at nearly twice the city's estimated cost of $250,000.
Also, the Steamboat Springs School District has offered to discuss with the city alternative sites owned by the district. It makes sense to explore those options before going ahead with the Heritage Park site because the school district likely would be one of the primary users of the field.
We agree that there is a need for the field, which could be used for a variety of sports including lacrosse, soccer, baseball, football and kickball. The use of artificial turf would allow the field to be used in spring, when snow and snowmelt render natural turf fields largely useless.
Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson was right when he told the council that although the cost of the field came in higher than anticipated, the cost is going to go up in the future. And if the council does not build the field at the site west of Steamboat, it may lose out on $150,000 in grant money that Great Outdoors Colorado has provided for the project. Still, it did not make sense for the city to move ahead on the field when the only bid came in at $492,000 on a project budgeted for $250,000. Especially with the school district willing to discuss other plans.
Members of the Heritage Park Homeowners Association had lobbied against the field. They raised concerns about noise and traffic that the multi-use field might generate in their neighborhood. In particular, they expressed concern about the field being used by Triple Crown, which is working with area towns to identify more fields for its summer baseball and softball tournaments.
In an effort to appease the homeowners, city staff recommended that the Heritage Park field be for the use of local teams only if it is built. That, as City Councilwoman Kathy Connell noted, is an unnecessary condition. Our 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. Already, there are soccer fields at the site. For the homeowners to complain now about one additional multi-use field seems a little disingenuous.
The city must study more options before moving ahead with the field on the chance that the field can be built at a different site for less money. In the end, the Heritage Park site may prove to be the best site. If that proves to be the case, the field should be built there without restricting it to "local use only."