As appealing as we find the proposal by Kevin Sankey and Mark Lynch to raise donations for a large athletic field house adjacent to the Strawberry Park schools, we understand why a majority of the Steamboat Springs School Board decided Thursday night against assuming ultimate financial responsibility for the facility. The purpose of the Steamboat Springs Athletic Center would only be tangential to the school district’s core mission of providing our youngsters with the best academic education we can afford.
Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014
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That said, we are firmly convinced that physical education classes that instill the values of lifelong exercise should be part of every youngster’s education. And we have editorialized in the past advocating for team sports in the school environment for the personal skills they build. They include goal setting, discipline, teamwork and time management, among others. However, an overarching mandate to our volunteer school board members on behalf of parents and property taxpayers is to keep the school district fiscally sound in order to prepare our children to compete in a global economy.
Yet, we find ourselves wondering if there isn’t a way to keep this worthy initiative by two individuals, who have demonstrated sincere enthusiasm for volunteering with youth sports, alive.
The proponents of the Steamboat Springs Athletic Center were proposing to raise millions of dollars from private donors and develop a field house in excess of 75,000 square feet on the campus of Steamboat Springs Middle School. They were proposing to oversee management of the facility that could have hosted practices for field sports such as soccer and lacrosse among others. School students would have had “priority” access to the facility while school was in session
Other hours of the day, it would have been available to community sport leagues for an hourly fee. The school activities would have been charged only a pro-rated share of the overhead for the facility.
The School Board members’ concerns about encumbering school finances if the business plan does not generate sufficient funds to operate the field house, or to maintain and repair it in the future, are valid. The proposal calls for the district to own and take responsibility for the field house and with it comes financial obligation, the scope of which is difficult to know.
We wonder if the School Board would look differently on this project if the proponents’ fundraising was required to also set aside an endowment dedicated to the long term maintenance of the building. If a $1.5 million endowment, invested conservatively, were able to average a 6.5 percent return, it could spin off close to $100,000 annually, and in the early years the endowment could grow to produce more income over the long haul. We use those numbers only as an example to make the case.
We also respect the frustration Sankey and Lynch are experiencing with the public process — but it is what it is.
We think it’s too soon to give up on this project that has the potential to deliver a facility that the broader community would make great use of. If Sankey and Lynch really want to make this work, they may need to step back from the emotions of this week and try to understand the School Board’s reluctance, then search for a way to address its concerns.
They have our gratitude for trying.