If Facebook is any indication, the Walk of Olympians so far is a success.
The first two of the 18-inch-by-18-inch bronze plaques were set down on top of the sidewalk brick on the corner of Fifth and Yampa streets Wednesday. Mainstreet Steamboat Springs' Tracy Barnett said the response so far has been positive.
“We’re still asking for any input,” Barnett said. “We have gotten a bunch of likes on Facebook and a couple good comments. People keep saying it’s a great idea and that they’re glad it’s moving forward.”
The plaques are meant to honor local Olympians and one day could adorn sidewalks throughout downtown Steamboat Springs. Two plaques featuring 1964 and 1968 Olympian Billy Kidd and 1988 and 1992 Olympian Todd Wilson briefly were on display along the sidewalk earlier this week. They feature a head shot and an action shot of the athlete along with a list of the athlete’s Olympic accomplishments.
“It’s an honor,” said Wilson, who now is the Nordic director for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “It’s just another sign of how this community embraces athletics and its Olympians. I’m not someone who really likes being put on a pedestal and recognized, but deep down inside, it’s an honor, and it makes a guy feel good.”
The project is five years in the making, Barnett said. It floated between organizations, and the concept was supposed to begin several times in several places.
Now, it’s close to finding life beginning in front of the aptly named Olympian building at Fifth and Yampa streets. The plaques will be built into the brick pavers between the sidewalk and the street.
“We wanted them up and down Yampa Street to start, and that’s where we’d like the majority of them to be to start as the properties along the street become developed and those sidewalks are developed,” Barnett said. “We will also have them up on Lincoln” Avenue.
Barnett said pushing the project through seems like a no-brainer given the way the community embraces its Olympic history. That history is most evident inside Howelsen Hill Lodge, where Olympians with Steamboat connections are honored with flags, but this project would bring that recognition out into the open. It should be visible to everyone and someday could make for a great walking tour, the stories of some of Steamboat’s brightest stars told with a simple stroll down the street.
Wilson and Kidd will be joined in the first wave of plaques by Caroline Lalive, a two-time Olympian in Alpine skiing.
Three others nearly are set with sponsors, and the rest of Steamboat’s vast array of Olympians are up for grabs. The only rule: They must be retired.
“We always talk about them, and we don’t do anything,” Barnett said. “Everyone loves this idea, and we’re jumping on it, but it’s taken so long to get the pieces in place.”
So, what does it feel like to know your name forever will be etched in Steamboat Springs?
It’s a funny feeling, Wilson admitted. He said although he treasures his memories competing in Nordic combined at two Olympic Games, he tries not to go overboard with those stories when coaching today’s children. He said he strives to pass along the values that lifted him to his dream rather than simply passing along his dream, and he hopes that’s what can come through his plaque.
“The beauty of what we do is life skills we teach,” Wilson said. “Not everyone will use those skills to become an Olympian, but they’re just as valuable if someone goes on and gets an education.
“I’ve never been comfortable being put on a pedestal, but if I’m an example of what can be accomplished through hard work, that’s great. I’m really proud.”
Plaque sponsorship costs $2,000, and anyone interested in claiming his or her favorite Olympian should call Winnie DelliQuadri, with the city of Steamboat Springs, at 970-871-8257, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association at 970-879-0880 or the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club at 970-879-0695.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com