Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Triple Crown are set to once again gauge the community's willingness to allow some Triple Crown baseball games at Emerald Park.
It's an idea that promises to spark some debate here in the coming weeks because of some longstanding opposition to Triple Crown's expansion from neighbors of the park.
- Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 5:30 p.m.
Chamber CEO Tom Kern said Thursday that Triple Crown is having to turn away some teams for its upcoming Mountain Magic tournament this summer here in Steamboat because of lack of field space.
“And obviously, that means a loss of business,” Kern said.
Kern will talk to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday about the possibility of giving Triple Crown some limited use of the Emerald ballfields for three weekends in June as a sort of pilot program to see if it can be successful.
He said the fields on those weekends aren't being utilized fully, and the proposal would allow an additional 20 teams to play in Steamboat.
“We just want to open up the dialogue and have a conversation about this,” Kern said. “We're not making any assumptions.”
Triple Crown brought about 16,000 players and visitors to the city last summer, and its presence has a significant economic impact on the city, Kern said.
That impact is estimated to total more than $6 million annually in lodging alone.
The city never has allowed Triple Crown to add games at Emerald Park, and the previous requests to allow it spurred some heated debates in Centennial Hall.
Still at issue is the fact that there is no access to the park that doesn't run in front of the homes on Pamela Lane.
Residents who live there have voiced strong opposition to Triple Crown's expansion into the area in part because of the potential for more noise and vehicle traffic.
Some community members also have concerns that the move would limit some other youth sports from using the fields during the busy summer months.
In addition, the ballfields border the Yampa River Botanic Park, and Bob Enever, who with his wife donated the park land to the city, said he has concerns about the impact additional activities could have there.
“It has to have an effect on the serenity of the Botanic Park,” Enever said.
New access faces delays
The ballfields have been reserved for local youth activities since they were built more than a decade ago.
For years, the city has sought to construct a new access to the park that would spare Pamela Lane residents from the traffic.
Although the city has budgeted at least $1.4 million next year to start design and construction on a new access, City Manager Deb Hinsvark on Thursday indicated that the planning process and negotiations for the project could take another three years to complete.
The timeline hinges on negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad.
Kathy Connell, who served on the Steamboat Springs City Council when the ballfields were built, said she still thinks that until the access issue is resolved, the city shouldn't allow more user groups into the park.
She stressed that she wasn't against Triple Crown but rather the thought of bringing in any more additional traffic to the area.
“Let's fix the access, and let's fix the parking and then let's look constructively at managing events,” she said.
The last time the city was asked to open up the park to Triple Crown in 2008, the City Council narrowly voted against it.
Council members were torn because on one hand, they wanted to respect the concerns of the neighbors, but they also feared losing one of the city's biggest summer tourism drivers if they didn't accommodate the request.
A 2007 study by a Denver consultant found Triple Crown was bringing about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in tax revenues to this corner of the state every summer at the time.
The council in 2010 approved a 10-year contract with Triple Crown that keep the games here through 2020.
Kern said Wednesday night's Parks and Recreation meeting could be the start of a few months of conversation about the idea.
It ultimately would have to be endorsed by the current City Council.
“This is an opportunity to expand their (Triple Crown's) presence here, and if there's a way to do it that would work for everybody, that would be great,” Kern said.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10
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