Steamboat Springs He’s been the face of the Steamboat Spring Winter Sports Club for 14 years, but Rick DeVos rarely wanted to step into the spotlight.
You could find him before the start of most events putting up fencing, checking timing or greeting competitors. He took his turn in the crow’s nest announcing events when needed, or you could find him tucked away in his office overlooking the face of Howelsen, making sure the day-to-day operations of the Winter Sports Club were in order.
The was no question the executive director would rather have the light fall on the young athletes who make up the membership of the Winter Sports Club, or on his staff that helped organize a winter full of competitions, or on the volunteers and community members who support the club with their time and money.
“He really loves children,” said Sarah Floyd, the club’s athletics director. “He always put them first, and he made sure every decision he made was in the best interest of the children. It wasn’t just lip service — his actions were real.”
Floyd said she wasn’t totally surprised when DeVos informed the Winter Sports Club’s board that he would be leaving his post July 12. He said he plans to pursue a few business opportunities and to focus on his family.
Floyd said she is thrilled for her longtime boss, and she’s confident the club will continue to find success on the path that DeVos has forged.
Floyd said DeVos brought financial stability to the club while also building strong relationships with the Steamboat Ski Area, the City of Steamboat Springs and many other local organizations. When he took the position as director back in 1999, the club was $300,000 in debt and had just 400 athletes on its rosters.
Today, the club’s financial problems have been resolved and its membership is strong, with 1,000 athletes taking part in winter sports. That number reached its high point in 2008, when the club featured 1,200 athletes.
The Winter Sports Club also has a strong summer following that includes biking and skateboard programs, year-round training opportunities and summer ski jumping on Howelsen’s two plastic-covered jumps.
The director’s achievements include growing the staff from 50 employees to 150; introducing summer cycling and skateboard programs; adding boardercross, skiercross, park and pile, and telemark disciplines; installing plastic on two Nordic jumps, allowing for year-round training and competitions; constructing a freestyle water ramp and trampoline facility at Bald Eagle Lake; expanding the strength training facility; improving lighting and snowmaking systems at Howelsen Hill; launching the Winter Sports Club’s website; and establishing The Foundation endowment fund.
DeVos said his decision to resign wasn’t easy, but he felt the time was right to make the move. He said he has a few business opportunities to pursue, and he wants to make sure that he spends quality time with his family— something that was difficult to do as executive director at the Winter Sports Club.
His decision to leave was made easier, he said, by the knowledge that he has an experienced, quality staff to carry on the work he started years ago.
“Heather and I have been looking at this for the past three years,” DeVos said when reached by phone Wednesday morning. “Our children are out of college now, and there were just a number of other factors in our lives that let me know this is probably the right time.”
DeVos said after discussing the idea of leaving the Winter Sports Club with his wife, Heather, the couple was just waiting for the right time.
The couple has been together for 27 years and has two grown children — Nicholas, 24, and Mandi, 22. Nicholas was married last summer and lives in California, and Mandi just graduated from Westmont College in Santa Barbara this spring.
DeVos said he plans to travel to visit family members this summer but will remain in Steamboat Springs in the foreseeable future. He hopes to continue to help with The Foundation — one of the few things he feels is unfinished. He would like to see the endowment fund he helped start to support the club reach $10 million. It currently has just more than $2 million. He believes the fund is a key to the club’s financial security while helping to keep the cost of membership at a level that families in Steamboat Springs can afford. He also said the endowment will help the club reward coaches and staff members for their efforts.
“Rick’s dedication to the Winter Sports Club played a critical role in establishing what we know as the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club today,” said Bob Kuusinen, president of the club’s board of directors. “Under his leadership financial stability became the norm, allowing for growth and expansion. The Winter Sports Club is set to enter the next phase with solid footing, which will allow the club to continue its mission — to provide an opportunity for the youth of our community to become successful individuals and to achieve their personal goals through the participation in winter sports.”
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com