One plan Mark Lynch and Kevin Sankey have looked into for the Steamboat Springs Athletic Center includes a 360-foot-long, 210-foot-wide turf field, complete with locker rooms, a weight room, restrooms, offices and spectator seating for about 150 to 200 people.

Courtesy rendering

One plan Mark Lynch and Kevin Sankey have looked into for the Steamboat Springs Athletic Center includes a 360-foot-long, 210-foot-wide turf field, complete with locker rooms, a weight room, restrooms, offices and spectator seating for about 150 to 200 people.

Field house public-private agreement could be signed Thursday by Steamboat School Board

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— Eight months ago, Kevin Sankey and Mark Lynch thought they were within four weeks of having an agreed-upon plan — a document that would spell out a public-private partnership between them and the Steamboat Springs School District that could convince local donors to pledge millions of dollars to help fund the massive construction of a community indoor field house at Steamboat Springs Middle School.

Fast-forward eight months later, the document remains unsigned, and the project's pursuit has gone on longer than expected.

Also at Thursday's meeting

The board will interview and vote on candidates for its current open seat. Superintendent Brad Meeks said he knows of two or three applicants interested. Applications are due by noon Monday.

A Steamboat Springs School Board with members almost entirely different from those who originally gave the nod to go forth with fundraising efforts is in place, and current School Board members expressed skepticism about the logistics of the field house.

Would it be sustainable? Who is funding this venture? What kind of access will the community and school district alike have to the grandiose facility?

Sankey and Lynch admittedly are a bit frustrated, hoping to already have been well into the process with donors and collecting construction bids.

“We basically got the go-ahead form the board in October to go to the next phase, which was figuring out a general design package and where we were going in terms of building costs and operating costs and so forth,” Sankey said. “We started down that road. We did a lot of work out of our own pockets and our own time.”

But Lynch said that late this spring, he was told the School Board, with three new members in place, wanted to re-evaluate Sankey’s and Lynch’s project, citing a lack of comfort with the perception that the fine details of what the building might look like and cost and how it might be managed weren’t clear enough.

In late June, the School Board delayed signing a public-private agreement between Sankey and Lynch and the district, resolving to hold a separate workshop nine days later to go through the document line by line with the district’s attorney, Mike Holloran, on hand.

The workshop was productive, Superintendent Brad Meeks said after the fact, and the document was sent back with Holloran for final revisions. On Thursday in a special School Board meeting, the agreement document will be voted on by the board and subsequently signed or not signed.

“A lot of what has happened in the last eight months has been productive, because it has forced us to go through it and actually spend more attention to what happens after it gets built,” Lynch said.

Building a ‘community’ facility

Lynch first went in front of the School Board on Aug. 26 to pitch the idea of a multimillion-dollar field house, a building that would mean so much more to the community than a place for the district’s athletic teams to get better, he said.

It’s been almost a year since that meeting, and the work between now and then has felt like a full-time job for the dads of teenage Sailor athletes.

He and Sankey have dug deep into their own pockets, traveling to places such as Texas, Utah and the Front Range, touring field house facilities in communities similar to Steamboat. They’ve even gone as far as drafting a floor plan for one model in particular that they think would fit well on the middle school campus.

The basic plan features a 360-foot-long, 210-foot-wide turf field, a weight room, concessions, locker rooms, restrooms and overhead seating suitable for 150 to 200 spectators. It also would feature electronically controlled curtains that would break the field into separate pieces, areas where tenants could rent the real estate after district hours to swing the operating cost.

“The schools are a huge beneficiary of this,” Sankey said. “The public-private side of it, during the daytime when school is in session, this is basically their building. They can do with it whatever they choose.”

Those not directly benefiting from it, the partners insist, are themselves. Should it be built in the time frame they envision, their teenage children will get access to it for one or two years.

But as active youth athletics volunteers — coaching youth football and lacrosse, among other things — Lynch and Sankey want to give Steamboat kids something to do year round to keep adolescents away from negative influences.

“Kevin and I think that we’ve got too many kids with few options,” Lynch said. “There’s nothing for them to do, so when they get bored, they turn to drugs, sex and alcohol. There’s nowhere right now for them to go to provide them with better options to make decisions.”

Lynch said that if the School Board decides to allow the partners to take a signed document to private donors, the community eventually will get a grandiose facility that has guaranteed access during non-school hours.

And as a fee-based open gym, the more who come, the more revenue is generated to ensure it’s a self-sustaining facility, not one that will serve as a rarely used money pit down the line.

“The school district wants to make sure this is self-sustaining, that is, it will pay for itself,” Sankey said. “We very strongly believe that with very conservative estimates, we’ve proven that this will sustain itself through user fees and membership fees.”

The next step

If Sankey and Lynch get the board’s nod Thursday, they don’t plan to waste any time.

And they may have to do some backtracking, again convincing would-be donors from 2013 to hop back on board for a project that could cost anywhere from $6.5 million to $8 million.

The school district has asked for finer details on facility operations and costs, and Superintendent Meeks said they’ve come a long way in those regards. But without a signed contract, Sankey and Lynch have insisted time and time again, concrete numbers and floor plans can’t be generated from builders to hand over to the board.

“We’re ready to take those next steps and start putting the money in the bank and start spending that money to develop schematic plans to come to real numbers and be able to then go back and narrow down our options,” Sankey said. “For us to go out and get the public to donate to this, they need to know what the public aspect of it is.”

They estimate it’s at least an eight-month process to build. The district has requested that as part of the agreement, 105 percent of the project’s estimated budget be deposited into an account before June 1, 2015.

Lynch said he’s heard enough about the hurdles that come with pursuing such a big project. But with no added cost to the public — no raised taxes, no Steamboat Springs City Council approval and no zoning restrictions — the duo is ready to move forward.

“We’d like to at least try,” Lynch said. “We are tired of hearing that it can’t be done. Why can’t we have this? Once and for all, let’s find out.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

Comments

dana tredway 2 months, 1 week ago

I'm sure there are virtues to this project, but as a kid that grew up here and as a parent who raised two kids here, the idea that "kids need more options....to keep them from turning to drugs and sex and alcohol" is absurd. We live in paradise with more "options" and resources as parents than most places on Earth. No building will keep your kids from negative options, that's where parenting comes in. There is no way I will believe for a second that the school district can afford this project nor will it NOT cost the public money, starting with the legal fees to review the contract. We have world class ski clubs, one of the best ski resorts in the world in our back yard, gyms, year round swimming pools, club sports, ice rinks, public schools with sports programs. It's absurd that we need a 10M building to entertain our community.

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dave mcirvin 2 months, 1 week ago

Dana, totally agree with your comment.

(Disregarding electronic technology, SSWSC and the Werner library) Compared to when and where I grew up, SS is a recreation paradise not found in great abundance (like TX, UT and front range). Not convinced revisiting 'the $30+M rec center issue' is a viable pathway towards ending youth boredom.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 2 months, 1 week ago

"And as a fee-based open gym, the more who come, the more revenue is generated to ensure it’s a self-sustaining facility, not one that will serve as a rarely used money pit down the line." All well and good, but what is plan B if Plan A - fee based - doesn't pan out. Also agree with others that there seem to be plenty of venues already for our "youths". Also, will never buy into the "need" for this facility so our "youths" will avoid sex, drugs and alcohol. I came from a community in MN. that had lots of facilities and opportunities and darn if some didn't find sex, drugs and alcohol any way.

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Ben Ingersoll 2 months, 1 week ago

All,

I think what Mark Lynch is talking about is having additional opportunities for kids in the Yampa Valley who maybe don't fit the options you mentioned. Winter Sports Club is great, but it is also pricey. Same goes for the ski resort. Not all kids will enjoy what Howelsen Ice Arena offers in the winter. I don't want to speak for them, but from everything I gather, the field house would give the lacrosse players a field to practice on for those 5-6 months when snow is on the ground, or maybe provide an area for baseball players to play while the fields dry in Mud Season. And those are just a couple ideas. Maybe come to the meeting Thursday and have your voice heard? Very few outside those directly involved have gone to the meetings, and there have been more than a few open ones in the past couple months.

-Ben Ingersoll

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Steve Evans 2 months, 1 week ago

Field house sounds a lot like tennis bubble. Cost of tennis bubble to we the tax payers and our city more than a million $. Even our SSHS tennis team has to pay plenty.Before starting construction it would be nice to know: Cost per use? Adult and students Cost to maintain? Who pays? Cost of membership? Shouldn't industrial buildings be built In industrial zoned area? In industrial zoned areas?

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Harry Thompson 2 months, 1 week ago

Look at the bright side of this issue. They build the field house now and they will pay hell trying to get any money for school related projects in the future.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 1 week ago

Ben,

We also have public tennis center, rec center with pools, ice rink, pump track, skateboard ramps and millions of acres of BLM land or wilderness areas.

I know of a kid so happy to have a dirt bike whom has to travel 90 miles for a legal place to ride it. If he lived here that would be less than 10 miles for a bunch of legal options.

The idea that the field house could work out for all is not so farfetched. With all sorts of adult leagues in this sort of active community, it is plausible to expect it to be busy.

The key question is whether the school district will stop allowing adult leagues to use the existing facilities at favorable rates and will force them to use a more expensive field house?

If the plan includes that sort of a change and increasing costs to participants then that will be a bad situation. Many that are participating in adult leagues are seeking affordable recreation and I think a big fee hike to use field house will cause a revolt. That the leagues would then ask to continue using existing facilities or some will dissolve because they'd lose too many participants if having to pay steeper field house charges.

I'd like to know what various adult league organizers and participants think of the field house and the projected cost to participants.

Seems to me that the field house revenue projections are highly dependent upon being used by adult leagues and if the adult leagues resist or even boycott then the field house financially fails.

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Mark Ruckman 2 months, 1 week ago

Who is responsible for cost of maintaining the facility if it fails to get the after school hours uses set forth in the business plan?

If the private entity shuts down or lets the building fall into disrepair on public / school land, who is responsible for upkeep?

If someone is injured on the premise which is on public / school land, which insurance company is liable? Clearly the school district would be the deeper pocket that any reasonable lawyer would name in a suit.

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dana tredway 2 months, 1 week ago

Mark - per the agreement the district takes on full responsibility immediately after the project is complete. Any upside and all downside.

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Mark Ruckman 2 months, 1 week ago

Thanks Dana, that shouldn't be acceptable to the school board.

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dana tredway 2 months, 1 week ago

The thought crossed my mind, and many have affirmed it, that there is no question that this group has the money to build the field house. I think many in town were thinking, it will never happen. I hope the SSSD is fully prepared to fulfill the agreement and not hedging that the money isn't there.

Having spent a few hours looking through all the documents on the SSSD website, I came up with a lot more questions than answers. I find it difficult to believe an 8 to 10M $ agreement that will have such huge financial impact on the school budget if it doesn't work, is being hinged on basic projections by the group that will have zero responsibility once the building is up. Has this group gotten a 501(c) 3 that will allow the operations they are anticipating? Has this group ever managed a facility like this? If there are long term tenants requesting space, why not tie up those leases before agreements are made? Where do any of these numbers come from? I could create proforma statements for any outcome you would like to see if I have no accountability that they need to be accurate.

I appreciate that there might be BIG donors who get much needed tax deductions AND see a great building go up which on the surface, no club or coach will argue with. This side of the transaction is the easy side in my opinion.

If the SSSD can step up and say that it will hang it's hat on this financial data as presented and it's comfortable accepting this "gift" and carrying on the burden regardless of the outcome of these projections, then they need to be clear on that point.

I want to know who at the District is accountable, if none of these numbers are right, or if it takes 5 years and 5 management concepts before it breaks even. Who owns this decision when we have to increase budgets for this asset?

If this deal gets done and the "company" steps in to manage, what is the priority for the use of the fields and who has control. If girl's soccer, boy's baseball, lacrosse and a tenant paying $10,000 per month wants field time, who wins and who decides.

And, what/who is a tenant willing to pay $10,000 per month indicated in the prospectus? What would they be leasing? How could a $10,000 a month tenant not have substantial control?

Finally, what does this building really look like? Not a simple rendition which is not shown in relation to the school next to it. This looks like an industrial building in west Steamboat.

I hope as many people as possible can make it to the Board meeting Thursday to help with this decision.

I remember when some wise old guys in town sent us all back to the drawing board 15 years ago? instead of supporting a 22M school bond issue to move the High School to Silver Spur. No one wanted to hear what they said, but, they were right and we came up with a better, more economical solution. This is a big project, we shouldn't have to be rushed and not have clear vision from the start.

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Scott Wedel 2 months, 1 week ago

Dana,

Great research.

The idea that there could be a possible $10,000 a month tenants seems ridiculous. That tenant would be paying nearly a dollar per month per SB resident and far fewer than that will be using it. And that tenant would then have labor and normal business costs.

At least in the recent past, adult leagues sought available gyms on available nights and paid and were charged as little as possible. I think using the Middle School gym required paying for the janitor to work late in order to monitor and close the gym.

Seems to me that the reality check would be to consider the building with no outside revenues. But that still seems to be a really good deal for the school district. If those backing the proposal could also organize an endowment to help pay for maintenance then I see no reason not to approve it.

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Brian Kotowski 2 months, 1 week ago

We live in one of the recreational meccas of the universe. Anyone who can't find something productive/entertaining/exhilarating to do with their time is deliberately indolent.

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Kevin Sankey 2 months ago

We encourage all interested parties to set their skepticism aside, review the information presented to the district and, hopefully, join us in our efforts to bring a wonderful, new facility to our community. The project support documentation that has been provided is currently available for review through the district website. Throughout this process to date, Mark and I have been available to discuss this project at length with any interested parties, including at previous school board meetings and a publicized public forum at the middle school. Given the inability of presenting a comprehensive picture of the project in this online forum, I will refrain at this time from engaging in a specific point/counterpoint discussion via this particular medium.
For those who might question the “need” or “potential usage” for such a facility, we would encourage any interested parties to visit the district website and view the support from many of the youth (and adult) organizations in our community: Steamboat Soccer Club (youth and adult) Steamboat Youth Lacrosse Yampa Valley Youth Baseball Steamboat Springs High School Baseball High Altitude Basketball (youth and adult) White Out Volleyball Grand Futures

While the above list is merely a subset of the organizations that we have engaged with to date, it should serve to highlight the large cross-section of our active and athletic community that this project is intended to serve.

Based on our foundation of a shared vision to create a fieldhouse for the benefit of the school district and the general community, the proponents of the Steamboat Springs Athletic Center (SSAC) are looking forward to the next phase of working with the SSSD to turn this vision into reality.

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Scott Wedel 2 months ago

Kevin,

Which of those organizations have stated a willingness to pay their share of the revenues needed to support the $10,000 a month tenant managing it plus their management costs?

Seems to me that the field house committee isn't just proposing a field house, but is also proposing that activities being held at minimal cost in local gyms are moved to a much higher cost field house.

I think the idea of substantial revenues from the field house is highly dubious since many of the adult leagues are pretty sensitive to costs.

I suggest that if there is the capability to raise this sort of money to build it then there might also be the capability to create an endowment to help with the operating and maintenance costs. With an endowment then there is truly no risk to the school district. With the ongoing costs potentially the responsibility of the school district then even if this board agrees to have it built then there is no guarantee that a future school board would not balk at the costs and close it.

For the proposed field house to be dependent upon revenues projections for it's future operations strikes me as a real big risk for the project's donor's expectations on how it will be used. Seems to me that there should be an agreement setting a cap on the operating and maintenance costs that the school district would be asked to pay and the project supporters agree that if the revenues aren't there then they will find a way to cover those costs such as with an endowment.

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dana tredway 2 months ago

Kevin - with all due respect, I did take the time to read all the documentation and I would very much appreciate more specific answers to my concerns. I don't doubt for a minute that any person asked would agree that this type of a facility would be great. The point is asking an entity to accept the "gift" with a nebulous future cost to be paid for by our School District. I don't understand the rush to get the schools to sign up for the downside without proper due diligence on their part if they are the ultimate deep pocket. It doesn't matter if this facility works well, it matters if it doesn't and we have a few big examples of projects NOT working even though the general public thought it seemed like a good idea. I would sincerely appreciate you answers to my questions in a point/counterpoint manner in a public setting like this. Plenty of folks are following.

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Chris Adams 2 months ago

As Ben mentioned earlier, this sounds like a great discussion for the board meeting tomorrow night. I appreciate those of you who are looking out for this from a fiscally responsible perspective and I think the school district has been diligent about not rushing into an agreement for this reason. (Thus the 8 month timeline thus far).

Kevin and Mark have been working on this project for over a year and have met with many different parties including the school district, teachers, and coaches who this will positively impact. As a Physical Education teacher and youth coach I support this project and the positive impacts it will have on programming for kids in our school. The possibility of having an instructional space during the winter months that both Strawberry Park and Steamboat Springs Middle School's could use would be an incredible asset. The facility could be used during the school day for not only our Physical Education programs but also for academics in action activities to boost academic achievement through movement breaks. It could also serve as more instructional space as the school population bubble reaches the middle school in the next two years. By moving the fitness center/weight room to this facility, we could free up classrooms rather than moving portables onto campus like Soda Creek is doing this upcoming school year.

As for the demand for indoor space from outside groups, our school gyms are being hammered by many different adult and youth sports demands. If you could walk into Steamboat Springs Middle School on a regular school night and see boy scouts in the cafetorium, climbers on Tred Rock, City Adult Basketball league in the gym, and Pee Wee Wrestlers in the wrestling room it is clear that our facilities are being maxed out and our custodians are too. We are the current "Rec Center" for the masses...

As a Youth Baseball coach, we conducted travel team practices in the Steamboat Springs Middle School gym (in April) at $28.00 an hour for a facility meant for basketball and volleyball and not Baseball, Soccer, or Lacrosse. It is my understanding that a curtained off space in the fieldhouse, which would be much more conducive to a baseball practice, would run around $40.00 an hour. This would give you an idea of the cost difference that Scott was talking about. Mark and Kevin also did research with regards to facility use in the summer months and found a huge interest from sports camps as a major source of revenue.

Thanks for the productive discussion and we hope that it continues through to tomorrow nights board meeting.

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Scott Wedel 2 months ago

If demand for space exceeds 95% of capacity then there is a shortage of space, but if demand backs off to 75% of capacity then there is no problem and there may even be a need to increase usage. So just because we are currently squeezed doesn't mean there is a huge unmet demand.

The current $28 per hour for gym space basically covers their costs for an employee to monitor loosely and close up. There is no additional heating costs because the school building is heated and no added maintenance on a wooden floor.

An additional $12 per hour is supposed to cover heating a huge space and other costs?

Seems that there is the huge issue of hundreds of thousands dollar a year in utility and maintenance cost and what happens if there isn't that sort of revenues? I think it could become very easy for a future school board to close the field house and go back to using the gyms for student activities. I think current school board members could be very concerned about the obligations they place upon future school boards. And there is currently a field with track that is currently usable for much of the school year. It'd be a shame to lose that to a building too expensive to operate.

Thus, I think the proposal should have a back up plan if the promised revenues don't materialize. If supporters can say with some commitments how they will cover costs or guarantee revenues then there is much less that could go wrong.

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Gardner Flanigan 2 months ago

All,

Great dialogue and good points on both sides of the conversation and I appreciate this forum to add the perspective on behalf of the Steamboat Soccer Club asking for support for this project.

I agree with Dana’s initial comment that the premise of kids needing more options for a healthier lifestyle is a bit of a stretch. From the SSC’s viewpoint, this issue is about an additional indoor training resource for all members of our community. As Scott Wedel correctly points out, our community has overgrown indoor training facilities (primarily school district facilities) for children and adults activities. The SSC, with over 600 children participating in the spring, summer & fall months has seen a dramatic increase in demand and participation in winter months training and we are faced with limiting indoor training opportunities for our kids due to lack of indoor facilities.

We understand the communities concern that this facility would be a tax burden, however the project as presented clearly indicates that not one shovel of dirt be turned over until private funding is secured for construction, facility maintenance and long-term operations. I trust the school board legal team to ensure any potential risk to the school district and taxpayers is addressed appropriately.

With regards to long-term tenants requesting space, the SSC has indicted our interest to enter into a long-term rental agreement should the facility go forward. Our understanding is that similar community organizations (Boys & Girls Club, Steamboat Lacrosse Club, Steamboat Youth Baseball, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) have also indicated interest to enter into a long-term agreements.

The SSC is grateful for the work of Kevin & Mark in their research of this facility, the consideration of the Steamboat Springs School Board and those who are looking out for this from a fiscally responsible perspective. We believe it is important that all parties be diligent and not rush into an agreement, however from a usage & need perspective, the SSC supports this project and the positive impacts it will have on programming for our kids and other youth & adult organizations in our community.

Respectfully, Gardner Flanigan President of the Steamboat Soccer Club Board of Directors

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Scott Wedel 2 months ago

" clearly indicates that not one shovel of dirt be turned over until private funding is secured for construction, facility maintenance and long-term operations"

It seems clear that nothing happens until private funding is secured for construction.

It appears that facility maintenance and long term operations are the school's district's responsibility. If there is an entity wishing to lease the facility then that entity would be responsible for maintenance and long term operations, but that entity is currently a question mark. And even if it does exist then it could go under if revenues aren't sufficient.

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