Steamboat Springs Triple Crown Sports has enacted a new lodging policy for its 2009 World Series youth baseball tournament in Steamboat Springs, discouraging participants from lodging with properties that do not make concessions to the company.
"To participate in the Triple Crown World Series your team must stay with a Triple Crown Sports preferred lodging partner," reads the policy on Triple Crown's Web site, www.triplecrownsports.com. "Teams that are registered for the event that do not meet the above requirements will not be eligible to participate and will not be scheduled into the event. If you are local, or are requesting an exception to this policy, you may call the : lodging department for approval of alternative lodging request. : Once approved for alternative lodging, your team will be charged a lodging surcharge of $500."
Triple Crown officials say the new policy will result in lower rates and higher convenience for their customers. But some fear it will prevent smaller players from capturing a piece of the Triple Crown market, which is a primary driver of Northwest Colorado's summer economy.
Sean Hardy, Triple Crown's director of major events, said the ability to purchase lodging directly from the company will provide teams with "one-stop shopping" and ease the "overwhelming process of planning a vacation."
"We really wanted to help the customer," Hardy said Wednesday.
Hardy also said the policy will allow Triple Crown to address concerns that lodging prices are jacked up when the sports-tourism company and its participants are in town. "By being successful, sometimes you create a higher price for your customer," he said.
Finally, Hardy said the company needed a way to crack down on property managers who for years have cashed in on the Triple Crown market while offering the company nothing in return.
The company has not yet negotiated any contracts or named any "preferred lodging partners," Hardy said. The criteria to become a partner will vary between lodging properties, Hardy said, and will depend on the property managers' willingness to provide concessions that could include a 10 percent commission similar to that typically charged by travel agents, complimentary rooms for Triple Crown employees and lower rates for Triple Crown customers.
"Every deal's going to be specific," Hardy said. "Everybody has a shot."
David Dillard disagrees. Dillard, who owns and personally manages a collection of Steamboat condos, was alerted to the policy change by a Triple Crown customer who stayed with him this past summer. Dillard said he is not interested in making his condos available to entire Triple Crown teams - one thing the company is looking for - but that he does rent them to individual families.
"It concerns my guests, and therefore it concerns me," Dillard said Wednesday. "We had a lot of guests that booked with us who did not want to stay with the team. : They want to enjoy it as a vacation, and Triple Crown's trying to put an end to that."
Dillard also said that having to pay a commission or make other concessions to Triple Crown would ruin his ability to compete with Steamboat's major property management companies.
"We don't have much of a ceiling there to raise our rates and still get some of the business," Dillard said.
Hardy said the policy is not unreasonable and that people such as Dillard need to decide how valuable Triple Crown business is to them.
"They've been getting our customers and not having to pay anything," Hardy said. "They have to make a business decision on whether that's worth the time and money to market with us."
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said that the policy may indeed squeeze out some smaller players, but that it is only fair for lodging operators to play ball with Triple Crown.
"You either get on board and help support it and you get to be one of the properties, or not," she said.
To satisfy the policy, each team must book a minimum of six hotel rooms for five nights or condominium units that total 10 bedrooms for five nights with a preferred lodging partner. Once the requirement is satisfied, remaining members of the teams and their families are free to lodge with whomever they like.
The policy is being enacted nationally.