Daniel S. Baum: City got it right
August 11, 2012
It is my understanding that the city of Steamboat Springs has chosen to negotiate a contract with Stacy and Jim Swiggart as operators of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs. The city got this one right.
My opinion is based on two personal experiences, one very painful and one very positive. I was a former owner/manager of a successful 700-member, 15-court tennis club in Syracuse, N.Y. In 2005, I was approached by a tennis management company that wanted to purchase our tennis club at a price greater than I ever thought possible. They looked great on paper, had a reasonable business plan, and being a small business entity, it seemed prudent to go with the money. We made the deal. As a result, management, customer philosophy, pricing and club operations all changed.
Subsequently, the new owners over-extended themselves, failed to understand the market and were unable to live up to our management's dedication to our customer base. They failed. Our club — with its successful junior programs, its booming league participation and its vibrant tournament schedule — was closed a few years later amid myriad debt. Consequently, the club members lost the premier tennis facility in central New York that had been in existence for more than 40 years. Often, the grass is just not greener on the other side.
That could have happened here. It is my understanding the group bidding against the Swiggarts were not local and, if the same thing happened here as did in our situation, an effort on the city's part to save on their subsidy for a world-class facility would have opened the door to disaster. While the city has a right and responsibility to save every last tax penny it can, the choice of keeping two individuals like the Swiggarts in Steamboat, in the short and long run, probably saved us all money as well as two quality people.
I use the Tennis Center extensively. I know the business. To say that my experience there is positive would be vastly understated. To have gone with anyone but the Swiggarts, who with 20 years of dedication, knowledge of the market, sweat and their own money invested in not only the Tennis Center but also the community, would have been a major mistake, the most tragic of which would be abandoning those things we value most in our small town — dedication, honesty, effort, passion and love for our town. That's what the Swiggarts have given us for 20 years.
This decision was right on many levels. The city got this one right.
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Daniel S. Baum