Photo by John F. Russell
James Belk puts the bat on the ball during the opening day of the Triple Crown World Series in Steamboat Springs on Monday afternoon. Belk was playing for the Colorado Crush baseball team out of Fort Collins.
City officials could buy some time to negotiate a long-term contract with Triple Crown Sports.
Last week, the Steamboat Springs City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance that would extend the current contract between the city and Triple Crown until 2010. The second reading and public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 5.
"It's status quo for now," said Chris Wilson, director of the Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department, "but it could turn into a 10-year contract."
If the ordinance passes, the two-year extension will allow more time for city officials to identify long-term needs and solutions for the city and Triple Crown. According to the contract, there would be no changes to how the tournament operates during summer 2009, and Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said Emerald Park fields still will be off limits to Triple Crown.
Triple Crown officials told the Steamboat Pilot & Today in May that they were not interested in a short-term contract without also working toward a 10-year contract.
"Our intent hasn't changed," Triple Crown spokesman Matt Van Alsburg said Monday.
"The city needed to get the ball rolling toward a long-term contract, and if goals are met, it could roll into a longer contract," he said.
To continue the tournaments in Steamboat, Triple Crown needs better fields and more of them, Van Alsburg said. As part of the second amendment to the contract, Triple Crown requested a clause that states: "if the City does not give written confirmation to Triple Crown by October 1, 2009, that four additional playing fields will either be constructed or made available for use by Triple Crown in the 2010 season, Triple Crown may terminate this agreement for the 2010 season."
"Right now there is no room for growth in Steamboat," Van Alsburg said. "If there aren't four more fields brought online, it's cause to walk away from a 10-year contract. It doesn't mean we will," but Triple Crown will have to re-evaluate its needs at that time based on the number of teams signed up for the Fort Collins-based organization's summer youth softball and baseball tournaments.
This year, Triple Crown World Series numbers are down. Van Alsburg said there are 300 teams this summer compared to 348 teams that competed last summer. The decrease is because of a number of factors, Van Alsburg said, but he expects participation to be back up next year. If that's not the case, "there might not be a need for four more fields in 2010."
Wilson said the city recognizes the need for more playing fields - not just for Triple Crown but also for other sports such as lacrosse and soccer. The city suggested a few options to provide four additional playing fields for 2010. Among them is the construction of a multi-purpose, four-field complex at an estimated cost of $3.5 million near Steamboat Springs Airport. Another suggestion includes lighting, irrigation and drainage improvements to the fields at Howelsen Hill.
As the city begins preliminary estimates for the 2009 budget, Wilson said City Council will need to look at other needs around the community and prioritize them before they decide on a plan of action to address Triple Crown's requests.
Currently, Triple Crown is advertising a nationwide request for proposals for the 10-year contract, and King said although interest has been shown from other cities, "we aren't at a serious level in discussions with anybody." Van Alsburg said Summit County and Reno, Nev., have indicated interest.
"We are trying to figure out the value of these tournaments and what we bring to the community," Van Alsburg said.
King and Van Alsburg said Triple Crown would like to stay in Steamboat.
"There is no denying that the destination attracts many of the players," but they have to consider what is best for the company, Van Alsburg said.