Steamboat Springs Triple Crown Sports officials say their proposed use of Emerald Park is not a deal breaker for a two-year contract extension with the city of Steamboat Springs. But failure to develop a long-term plan for the sports tourism company's future in Northwest Colorado could be.
"There's no reason to do a two-year deal if a long-term deal isn't going to happen," said Matt Van Alsburg, Triple Crown's World Series director.
Van Alsburg, Triple Crown President Dave King and other company officers met with officials from the city of Steamboat Springs and the town of Hayden at Triple Crown headquarters in Fort Collins on Friday to discuss the company's long-term plans and whether the region can accommodate them.
"Obviously they want to grow, and the trick is, if we choose to, can we fit into that," City Manager Alan Lanning said.
Triple Crown has hosted summer baseball and softball tournaments in the Steamboat area for 27 years. A consultant's report released last year states that Triple Crown brings about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in tax revenues to Northwest Colorado each summer. But some residents oppose the company's tournaments because of noise, traffic congestion and other impacts that accompany the influx of visitors.
The debate has come to the forefront recently because of Triple Crown's controversial request to use Emerald Park fields from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week during three weeks of its 10-week schedule in 2009 and 2010. To date, the fields have been reserved for local use.
At Friday's meeting - the first direct negotiations between Triple Crown and City Council members in recent memory - council President Loui Antonucci said Triple Crown officials were amenable to finding a solution other than Emerald Park.
King "understands the politics of that," Antonucci said.
Van Alsburg confirmed that Emerald Park is not a deal breaker, but he said it's now up to the city to find a solution to accommodate all the games Triple Crown needs to schedule. Van Alsburg said Triple Crown suggested Emerald Park because it is cheaper than other options, such as paying to finish fields at Dry Creek Park in Hayden.
Last week, the Hayden Town Board decided to send a letter to the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and the Hayden Chamber of Commerce asking local businesses to help pay for the $125,000 cost of completing fields at Dry Creek Park.
"If private business would pay for it, we'd be interested in building it," said Town Manager Russ Martin, who said Hayden won't have the money in its budget to finish the fields itself for a few years. "This is what we see as our opportunity to help out and also help ourselves."
As for the long-term, Van Alsburg said Steamboat must decide whether Triple Crown is something it wants and, if so, at what level.
"Our long-term goal is to grow this event in five or eight years to 800 teams," said Van Alsburg, referring to the World Series event that makes up the final three weeks of Triple Crown's schedule. That event is expected to draw 390 teams to Steamboat this summer, 40 more than before. Van Alsburg said one option is to split the World Series between two locations, which would keep the number of teams in Steamboat at about its current level. Or, if plans to build a Northwest Colorado Sports Complex in Hayden come to fruition, Triple Crown could hold the entire event in Routt County. Even with the smaller option, Van Alsburg said Steamboat must improve the number and quality of available fields.
"They would be looking for us to put money in our fields," Antonucci said.
Van Alsburg said competitors are gaining on Triple Crown and that the need for high-quality facilities is increasing.
"In the past, people were willing to overlook facilities in a destination," he said. "Now we're running into a situation where people can get both."
Triple Crown already has begun exploring a possible move from Steamboat. The company recently issued a nationwide request for proposals to gauge what it would be worth to other communities, King said last week.
With City Council's direction, Lanning said he and Parks, Open Space and Recreation Director Chris Wilson will work to find a resolution with Triple Crown in the next six weeks. Van Alsburg said Friday's meeting encouraged him.
"The general feel from our office was positive," he said.