Council OKs tennis center funding

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The City Council will give about $28,100 to The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs to make up for revenue lost during the facility's renovation.

The decision was made Tuesday after Jim Swiggart, the center's concessionaire, told the council the center had lost significant revenues since reconstruction began last year. The council agreed to allocate $28,131 to the center to make up for those losses and to pay for start-up costs for the center's re-opening.

Chris Wilson, the city's director of parks, recreation and open space, said Wednesday that the facility replacement subcommittee's intention was to have the center completed before weather made indoor tennis a necessity. However, he said, issues with the cost and color of the center delayed construction, and the early arrival of winter created more delays, which were increasing losses.

"The plan was to be able to start earlier and have better weather," Wilson said.

Swiggart has a contract with the city to manage the city-owned center and pay rent, as well as other costs. In the fall, the city released Swiggart from some of those obligations.

On Tuesday, Swiggart asked the council for money to fund four elements of the center's business: $4,657 for revenue that would have been made from tournaments, $12,794 for lost operating revenue, $6,680 for ongoing monthly expenses such as telephone service and $4,000 for start-up costs for the new center.

Some members of the council struggled with the request.

Council member Steve Ivancie said he was unsure about the request for start-up money.

"I'm still kind of fuzzy about that," Ivancie said.

Swiggart's response was, "We're literally starting a business back up."

Wilson said Wednesday that the start-up money would be used with discretion.

"The intent is only to use as much as needed to be able to meet the new opening," Wilson said. "It's really like starting fresh again."

Council member Susan Dellinger proposed that the city look into contracts with concessionaires. Wilson said city staff would follow up on that request.

Council member Towny Anderson said the council should not punish Swiggart for the city's errors, he said.

The council vot-ed 6 to 1 to provide the requested funding. Brenner was the dissenting vote. He said that the city is not a "money tree" and that he was uncomfortable with the request.

The Tennis Center project was controversial from the start. Council members were stunned in early August when the sole bid for the project came in almost $1 million over budget; the city had budgeted $2.19 million for the project, and the bid came in at $3 million. The council voted 6 to 1 to go ahead with the project despite the increased cost.

Brenner was the dissenting vote then, too. He said at the time that he was worried about public perception of the project because it came two years after the city asked voters to approve a property tax to fund the fire department.

At that time, Brenner said, the city was telling taxpayers it was struggling to provide basic services.

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229 or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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