Steamboat Springs The lodging tax committee heard presentations Thursday from the final four applicants for the $650,000 to $800,000 generated annually by the 1 percent tax on nightly rentals in Steamboat Springs. Four applications also were presented Wednesday.
The committee now will make a recommendation to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which will vote on the matter, but the ultimate decision could rest with voters.
Projects that request a multiyear commitment or bond financing would require an election to bind future councils.
The four proposals presented Thursday were:
Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance
Request: "We have identified 46 projects, from in-town connections and amenities to core trail extension and multiuse trails to user-specific hiking and mountain bike trails, which combined will create a seamless trail network that facilitates outdoor recreation and attracts affluent visitors during summer and shoulder seasons."
Cost: $12 million to more than $18 million
Presentation: Doug Davis, for the Steamboat Springs Trail Alliance, said the economic analysis prepared for the application compared Steamboat Springs’ biking impact to that of Whistler, British Columbia. Davis said the Beall Trail is an example of a signature loop that can attract cyclists and events.
“Trails are a small investment and a huge return,” he said.
Davis said the alliance’s research has shown the cross-country and downhill segments are key. The Morning Gloria, Unauthorized and Walton Rim trails were named as top priorities.
It is not the intent of the alliance to bond the financing, but it would be open to it, Davis said. The city would pay maintenance only for Yampa River Core Trail sections, Eric Meyer said, and other groups would maintain backcountry trails.
“These 46 trails will be a world-class amenity for Steamboat,” Davis said.
Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partners
Request: "We propose using the accommodations tax to expand and enhance the Howelsen Hill City Park/Emerald Mountain complex in ways that will improve tourists' experiences and increase the appeal of Steamboat to new visitors through new events and amenities."
Cost: $8 million
Presentation: The groups that came together to form the Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partners stressed the synergy of tackling the projects at once. Laura Sankey said the biggest draw will be the ability to host larger events, such as high-profile Nordic races and cutting horse competitions. Sankey said the sequence of projects will depend on which of the partners can raise their part of the $5.3 million estimated to be needed in addition to the $8 million requested from lodging tax revenue.
Kenny Reisman, a member of the lodging tax committee and the City Council, asked the partners how they intend to increase revenue given that some of the properties already draw substantial city funds. Sankey said the partners realize the need to market the events effectively to drive attendance.
“The vision for these amenities has been in the works for years,” she said.
Friends of the Chief
Request: "We seek to develop this historic building into a cultural center with state-of-the-art technology, diverse programming and educational opportunities to meet the needs of a vibrant and active arts community."
Cost: $150,000 per year for 20 years
Presentation: Tamara Beland, executive director of the Chief Theater, said many cities and towns have chosen to support their local theaters and have seen the payoffs as they become economic drivers.
“The arts is good business,” Beland said.
Committee members focused their questions on the finances of the nonprofit that owns the theater, Friends of the Chief. Tom Ptach asked about the terms of the loan agreement that provided $1.25 million to close on the building. Jim Cook, president of the Chief’s board, said the loan has the first lien on the building with 8 percent interest paid quarterly but would be retired if the group received the lodging tax revenue. The city’s interest in the building then would be junior to a potential $4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that would provide the majority of the $7 million needed to complete Phase 2 of the restoration. Cook said there could be some language in the note that would give the city first rights to the building should the nonprofit dissolve, but the USDA loan amortized throughout 40 years would come with it.
Downtown Revitalization Committee: Yampa River Park
Request: "The Downtown Revitalization Partnership respectfully submits the following 'Yampa River Park' proposal for the use of the accommodation tax funds that become available in 2014. Yampa River Park is a chain of open spaces along Yampa Street and the Yampa River that are linked by a promenade creating a linear park for visitors to enjoy."
Cost: $400,000 per year for 20 years
Presentation: Mark Scully, for the Downtown Revitalization Committee, said a promenade along the Yampa River might not be a driver of tourism but would contribute to the character of the community and entice people to become repeat visitors.
Even without the acquisition of private lands, Scully said, it still would be a fabulous promenade anchored by two parks. The maintenance for the promenade would be paid for by a proposed business improvement district or agreements with adjacent owners, which would need to be in place before construction, Scully said. The hope is to have an inclusive downtown business improvement district, he said, but a district just for Yampa Street business owners is another option.
It is the intent of the committee to use bond financing, and the promenade could be completed in 12 months.
Reisman said the proposal is “probably the one that has the most direct benefit to property owners who are in that area.”
Scully said that although it would benefit property owners along the Yampa, it is intended largely as a community asset.
Narrowing the choices
After the presentations Thursday, the lodging tax committee met to begin winnowing the list of eight finalists to make a recommendation to City Council.
Old Town Hot Springs, Friends of the Yampa and the open space acquisition were crossed off the list.
Much of discussion focused the future of Haymaker Golf Course. Although use of the golf course is dominated by residents, committee members were concerned that the investment already made through lodging tax revenues could be in jeopardy if the course’s long-term capital needs, such as an irrigation system, were not addressed. No consensus was reached about the appropriate revenue source for those needs.
Discussion will continue on the proposals from the Steamboat Springs Trail Alliance, Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partners, Friends of the Chief and the Downtown Revitalization Committee at a lodging tax committee meeting Tuesday.
Lodging tax branch discussion
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4254 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com