Steamboat Springs After 26 years, Triple Crown Sports is calling it quits on the sport that sustained the company through its earliest years. This year will be the last for adult slow-pitch softball.
Adult softball tournaments dominated Triple Crown's schedule during the company's first years in Steamboat Springs, and softball players gave the company a cooler-toting, bar-brawling, late-night-partying image that still persists in the minds of many Triple Crown opponents. In reality, adult softball has been drawn down to just one weekend of Triple Crown's youth-dominated, 10-week schedule in Steamboat each summer. This year's slow-pitch tournament is scheduled for July 4 to 6.
"Demographics show a diminishing population of competitive slow-pitch players," an announcement on Triple Crown's Web site reads. "The economy shows that the average American has less discretionary income to spend on recreation. The job market is more demanding and competitive than ever, and 'time off for softball' is not as easy to come by as in past years."
As the city's relationship with Triple Crown has come to a new head and officials work to craft long- and short-term arrangements with a company that also is courting offers elsewhere, opinions are mixed about whether Triple Crown's decision will make a difference in the eyes of its detractors.
"The stereotype they've put to it is the partying middle-aged guy who's away from his family," Steamboat resident Paul Knowles said. "Now it's pretty much all family-oriented kids."
Knowles has participated in the softball tournaments for several years. He is sad to see the event go. Although he hopes the loss of adult softball will change the minds of some Triple Crown opponents, he thinks the sport's reputation is undeserved.
"The ones we've met, they're great people," Knowles said about other softball players.
Furthermore, Knowles said he thinks it is these people who make it possible for him to live in Steamboat in the first place.
"I think it's easy to lose sight of the fact that this town is one that's driven by these events," Knowles said. "If this was still a cow town, most of us would not be here. I totally understand there are some downsides of Triple Crown. I totally don't deny that. But it's what we're based on."
Triple Crown opponent Michael Turner said Triple Crown's decision makes no difference in his mind. Whether its partying adults or rambunctious children, Triple Crown groups are the only tourists who have driven him to the point of calling the police.
"From an overall standpoint, I don't see a difference," Turner said. "The problems that we have had have not been isolated to the adult groups or the kid groups. It's not a matter of whether it's the kids or adults, it's the groups in general."
Steamboat Resorts President Bob Milne said Triple Crown participants have not caused any damage to the properties his company manages. He thinks Triple Crown's decision to cut adult softball will mean little.
"They've been slowly filtering down the number of adult tournaments so it's not going to be a huge change," Milne said.
Milne said even the small number of adult softball players who participate in the remaining tournament are different from those of earlier years because they take the game more seriously.
"It was definitely different," Milne said about past adult Triple Crown participants. It was like anything that evolves. It was more of the beers and coolers and adults that weren't here to play any kind of competitive softball. They were here to party. All they were spending money on was beer, and they were barbecuing every chance they got. : I can remember going down and watching some of those games and laughing."
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said the party perception of Triple Crown has been a fallacy for years and that the city urged Triple Crown to move toward children as long as 15 years ago.
"It has not been real for a long time," she said. "I think it's important that people realize that. We've got to change that perception."
Evans Hall said Triple Crown's decision will only make a big difference if it puts this perception to rest.
"It's not going to be a huge difference," she said. "Going from one to none is not a huge jump, but if people are still under the impression that this is all adults, now it's all youth, and that is a huge jump."
Bob and Audrey Enever have had their share of Triple Crown concerns throughout the years. Currently, the couple opposes a Triple Crown proposal to use Emerald Park fields adjacent to the Yampa River Botanic Park, which they donated to the city and remain involved with. Years ago, when they managed condominiums in the mountain area, Audrey Enever said they had to deal with Triple Crown softball players who would pour beer in hot tubs and do other "horrible things." She said the move to youth events has been a good one, "so we don't have these party-type things going on at night that upset everyone," and she is surprised that some still complain about similar issues.
When it comes to the current decisions being made about Triple Crown, Audrey Enever said she hopes the city can reach a compromise that reduces the number of people the company brings to Steamboat each summer.
"We reached a compromise with them once before," Enever said. "I thought that worked quite well."