Steamboat Springs After being pitched a ninth-inning curve ball Tuesday night, city officials responded with a checked swing.
The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 4-2, to table until Sept. 2 the approval of a two-year contract extension for Triple Crown Sports. The extension would allow Triple Crown to continue bringing national youth baseball tournaments to Routt County in July and August of 2009-10. A proposal that might have impacted local softball leagues was a factor in the tabling.
The council balked at new contract language that was inserted between the first and second reading of the enabling ordinance.
"In my mind, this too much to slipstream into a second reading," Councilman Jon Quinn said. "This is just a huge challenge."
The new language confronted the council with some difficult options it wasn't prepared to commit to on short notice, and it would have required the city to accommodate Triple Crown's need for more playing fields in one of three ways.
One option was to restructure local adult softball leagues to allow Triple Crown to enjoy extended play on Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Ski Town Park and Howelsen Hill.
Taking that step would "dramatically affect" local softball leagues, confirmed Chris Wilson, the city's director of parks, open space and recreational services.
Failing that, the council was asked to allow access to the Emerald Park ball fields in Steamboat Springs, or to fund completion of new diamonds in Hayden's Dry Creek Park, along with funding ball field improvements in Steamboat.
Joey Rind, who has been captain of the team known as Steamboat Blue in the Steamboat men's A softball league for 12 years, said he was taken aback when friends alerted him to the new contract language.
"When that bomb was dropped on me today, I thought, 'Why would someone entertain something that would grossly affect a local program?'" Rind said.
He said disrupting Wednesday and Thursday nights would impact men's A-league softball and coed C and D leagues.
Rind, who works in property management, said he is not anti-Triple Crown. In fact, Steamboat Blue has joined ballplayers from Craig in the past to form a successful Triple Crown tournament team.
Information supplied to the city council included a reminder that, on April 1, the initial contract extension asked city staff, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Triple Crown to propose alternatives to Emerald Park. Those alternatives were to include "alternative scheduling or other fields to accommodate the increased demand for fields."
Scott Marr, owner of the Steamboat Holiday Inn, stood before council to say Triple Crown is the heart of six key weeks of summer business.
"Even the Fourth of July, with all of the activities we have, isn't nearly as strong as Triple Crown weekends," Marr said.
But Councilwoman Meg Bentley also said she would not be comfortable approving the ordinance on second reading, given the proposed contract changes. She wanted to provide an opportunity for public comment on the implications of the proposed changes.
"This comes to us at the 11th hour," Councilman Steve Ivancie agreed. "There are major changes here. I was afraid Emerald would be back on the table. It's off limits."
City Council President Loui Antonucci said the city's public works staff is making an effort to engage the Union Pacific Railroad in discussions about creating a new at-grade railroad crossing that would allow vehicles to access Emerald Park from U.S. Highway 40 and thus eliminate the associated traffic from the residential neighborhood on Pamela Lane. They also were working on developing the cost of that option, he added.
Ivancie said he would be opposed to Triple Crown usage of Emerald, even with a new access.
Councilman Scott Myller said tabling the ordinance would not result in any new information. All of the public comment on both sides of the issue already has been heard, he said.
Myller made a motion to approve the ordinance on second and final reading, but his motion was trumped by an overriding motion to table the measure until the Tuesday after Labor Day. The motion passed with Myller and Antonucci dissenting. Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski was absent.