Steamboat Springs Worse than Northwest Colorado's potential loss of Triple Crown Sports, Steamboat Springs City Manager Alan Lanning said, is the lack of a long-term economic strategy such a loss could reveal.
"We just let 'er happen," Lanning said of the city's economy. "I think that's just the tragic failure of this. And I'm working on that. I'm putting together a group of really smart people that I hope will help me think my way through that."
As it stands, Lanning said Steamboat is in a position where he immediately would cut $1 million from the city's budget should Triple Crown - the sports tourism company that hosts 10 weeks of baseball and softball tournaments in and around Steamboat each summer - announce its departure.
"If we implemented that strategy now, we'd still have to cut the budget if we lost Triple Crown," Lanning said. "It takes time. I'd say we wouldn't have to cut the budget if we'd implemented a strategy like this five years ago. : We wouldn't need them. The worst position to be in is when you absolutely, desperately need to keep something to keep yourself afloat. The best position is when you're diversified and healthy, and you don't need anybody to remain afloat."
Lanning said capital improvement projects and community support spending such as the city's funding of the arts would take the biggest budgetary hits if Triple Crown Sports left Steamboat.
A consultant's report released last year states that Triple Crown's tournaments - which some residents oppose because of noise, traffic congestion and other impacts that accompany the influx of visitors - bring about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in tax revenues to Northwest Colorado each summer.
Issues such as the company's controversial proposed use of Emerald Park in 2009 and 2010, fields that don't meet Triple Crown standards and little progress on the construction of a regional sports complex have brought Triple Crown's relationship with the city to a new head. President Dave King long has said he may leave Northwest Colorado without the sports complex, and in recent weeks, he has said he may not even sign a short-term contract extension through 2010 without substantial progress toward meeting the long-term needs of his growing company.
Lanning said the revenue generated by Triple Crown would be hard to replace - at least immediately.
"We'd have to go to a vote for anything that would replace the revenue unless it was fee-based," Lanning said. "We could bring in more events, but those events would require some significant capital investment to get going and would bring along all the impacts we have now. It would take several years to get one of those events going, if you could bring it to town."
Noreen Moore, business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative, acknowledged that being in a situation where 49 percent of the city's summer sales tax can be attributed to Triple Crown is somewhat precarious - and certainly not diverse. Moore said the time has come to create a long-term economic plan, which could involve a new effort for city officials.
"It's not something we've ever had to deal with," she said.
Moore said the question of where to invest always was an easy one for Steamboat.
"Put it into tourism," she said. "It was a no-brainer. Now, we're not as straightforward. The economy's not near as simple as it was 15 years ago. : Now we have a much more complex economy. The conversations need to be more complex."
Moore is not as worried as some when it comes to the potential loss of Triple Crown. She noted that the loss of other events, such as vintage car and motorcycle races that used to anchor Labor Day weekend, have not resulted in as big of a hit to the local economy as many feared they would.
"The sky's not falling," she said. "It might be a little bit of a bump, but we've lost things before. We're going to face this up and down the road."
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, also cited the resilient strength of Steamboat's economy.
Moore said it may make sense to part ways with Triple Crown if the company and the city have discordant visions.
"Physically, it appears the carrying capacity is not something we can do," she said. "It's an incompatible relationship. : I'm not against Triple Crown. I enjoy them being here. But if we're not capable of carrying them, is that a good investment of dollars?"