Dollar signs point to baseball

Triple Crown teams bring big business to Steamboat

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— It's amazing the information one simple question can yield.

That's what one downtown Steamboat Springs business manager found out when he started asking customers what brought them to town.

The results were surprising. Brian Day manages a business that sells high-end apparel and merchandise. He said 69 percent of the sales were a result of people in town for Triple Crown Sports softball and baseball tournaments. During one busy Triple Crown World Series weekend in July, he did $21,000 in sales.

Business overall was up 38 percent over last year at the store, which he did not want to mention by name because the numbers were meant for internal use. Day attributed this increase to more Triple Crown teams participating in this year's tournaments.

"I think it's pretty common sense that record numbers for Triple Crown means record numbers for stores downtown," Day said.

Early summer sales tax revenues appear to support the claim that Steamboat businesses have done well this summer. Downtown sales tax revenues through June show that there has been an increase each month this year compared to the same month last year. In June, revenues increased 8 percent over June 2005. June downtown sales tax revenues were $265,776. So far, sales tax receipts are up nearly 9 percent for downtown compared to last year. Citywide, sales tax revenues are up nearly 13 percent over last year.

Main Street Steamboat Executive Director Tracy Barnett said there were fears business would be negatively affected by high gas prices this summer, but retailers downtown did not experience that problem.

"I think people generally have smiles on their faces," Barnett said.

Barnett said it is difficult for the downtown association to know why business is doing well, but she said Triple Crown had a major impact.

"People have always thought that Triple Crown people were buying T-shirts and ice cream, but they're shopping at the high-end stores," Barnett said.

"Everybody thought they're cheap, but they're not," said Alison Reagin, who owns downtown businesses Visia Eyewear and Steamboat Silver Company with her husband Rob Reagin. "It's a huge part of business."

She said the feeling is universal among downtown business owners.

"I would be surprised to hear of any downtown business that could survive without Triple Crown," Reagin said.

Sales also were up at Artisan Market of Steamboat, which sells the work of 150 artists, said owner Jan Lomas. She did not track sales as closely as Day, but she credited Triple Crown traffic this summer for 65 percent of her sales.

"Our summers rival the winter season," Lomas said.

The increase in traffic has shortened the shoulder season and, most important, she said, it has allowed her to employ people year-round, not just seasonally.

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