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  • — The economic impact study released this week about a regional sports complex in Hayden underscores that it is a good idea.

    Make no mistake - we are staunch supporters of Triple Crown, the sports organization that brings thousands of youth baseball, softball and soccer players and their families to the Yampa Valley for 10 weeks every summer. It is the single most important component of our summer tourism economy, responsible for millions of dollars in retail sales and sales tax revenues.

    The problem, of course, has been how to provide Triple Crown with adequate facilities to accommodate the organization's existing programs as well as anticipated growth. There are legitimate traffic, noise and cost efficiency concerns with providing such facilities in Steamboat Springs. That's why the idea of putting the sports complex in Hayden, on donated land, is such a smart idea.

    We believe the sports complex can be the catalyst necessary to jump-start business growth in Hayden, which is under-served from a retail standpoint, particularly when the anticipated residential growth in the town is considered. At a minimum, a new hotel and more restaurant options are expected.

    Of course, Steamboat Springs will continue to reap benefits from Triple Crown even if a majority of the games are played in Hayden. The youths and their families will continue to shop in Steamboat and utilize the city's tourism amenities, such as the Alpine Slide, the Old Town Hot Springs, Fish Creek Falls and the activities on the mountain.

    The economic impact study was commissioned by the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council and conducted by Denver consulting firm Corona Research. It began last fall and examines the regional economic impact of annual athletic tournaments sponsored. According to the study, the tournaments bring about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in sales and lodging tax revenues to Northwest Colorado each summer.

    The study showed building the 14 athletic fields in Hayden, which will cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million will pay for itself in 15 to 20 years in terms of sales tax revenues. That time span could shrink significantly depending on Triple Crown growth in the Yampa Valley.

    Routt County commissioners questioned the study. Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak criticized it for not including potential replacement activities or events. But that's one of the big misconceptions about Triple Crown. There aren't many events in which one vendor supplies thousands of tourists for extended stays every week for 10 weeks.

    There are issues to be worked out. The land in Hayden would have to be annexed by the town. Access roads would have to be built. There are questions about the availability of a workforce to fill the jobs the sports complex is expected to create. Most importantly, there is the question of who will pay to build the facility.

    We think all of the taxing entities in the area - Hayden, Craig, Steamboat Springs, Routt County and Moffat County - will benefit from the complex and should contribute proportionately to it. It should be noted that, in addition to Triple Crown, the sports complex would increase capacity for youth and adult sports teams throughout Moffat and Routt counties.

    We know the debate about how to fund the complex won't be easy. But we would remind all of the entities involved that there simply isn't an alternative that offers a better return on the investment.

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