Steamboat Springs Adult softball will return to Steamboat Springs this summer under a plan approved by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night.
In a 6-1 vote, council approved contracting with the World Softball League, which plans to host a 70-team, 1,000-player men's tournament the weekend of Aug. 14. Council chose WSL's offer instead of a competing one from Triple Crown Sports, a longtime partner with the city that already is hosting 10 weeks of youth baseball and softball tournaments this summer.
Councilwoman Meg Bentley voted against the proposal.
"I'm standing up for the part of the community that doesn't want to see baseball and softball every weekend," she said.
Given the current economic climate and the city's budget woes, however, other council members, businesspeople and lodging representatives are expressing a new openness to men's softball events that could introduce tourists and dollars to the local economy.
"We owe it to our staff," Councilman Walter Magill said. "We owe it to our community. We owe it to our lodging people."
Years ago, softball players gave Triple Crown Sports a raucous reputation, and the city asked the company to move toward more family-oriented youth tournaments. Adult softball was drawn down to just one weekend of Triple Crown's 10-week schedule in Steamboat before it ultimately was eliminated last year.
Larry Mashaw, a vice president with Resort Group and lodging representative on the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association board of directors, said while some condominium managers refuse to house men's softball players, there still would be ample pillows to handle the WSL event.
"If there's ever been a time to give something the benefit of the doubt, it's now," Mashaw said. "Summer looks as challenging as winter, if not more, based on some early numbers."
Mashaw said the lodging community recommended sticking with Triple Crown to protect the city's long-standing relationship with the company. But council members found it wise to diversify and work with a company whose core business is softball.
"I think it's good to put our eggs in a couple different baskets," Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said.
City Council also approved a 25-team American Baseball Association youth tournament for Memorial Day Weekend that Hermacinski called "a no-brainer."
"It fits right in with what we've already got," she said.
Director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Chris Wilson said he has made it clear to the American Baseball Association that weather conditions are unreliable that early in the season.
"They understand that risk and are willing to take it," Wilson said.
Mashaw warned that a canceled tournament could result in disgruntled visitors who won't have fond memories of Steamboat and may demand lodging refunds. Councilman Scott Myller joined Bentley in voting against the youth tournament for the reasons cited by Mashaw.
Although initially opposed to the city contracting with other sports tourism companies, Triple Crown President Dave King has softened his stance, Wilson said. Wilson said King has informed the city that he understands the tough economic situation and that whatever decision it makes will not harm its relationship with Triple Crown.