Jack Kiely: Opposing Triple Crown
December 17, 2013
More years ago than I care to remember, the Steamboat youth sports community perceived a need for sports fields dedicated to use by local kids. The group rallied parents and businesses; we lobbied local government. Through a combination of government action, business support and a lot of sweat equity, Emerald Park was built. I safely can say that not a drop of sweat was spent in order to provide commercial operators with a new venue. On the contrary, the fields specifically were constructed as a sanctuary from the omnivorous commercialization of every bare patch of green in the city.
My opposition to Triple Crown in the park and the machinations of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association to make that happen is based on my understanding of what the town's kids' sports need. I say this from long experience with local kids' sports. There must be a balance between commercial uses of city property and local use, a balance between the town as a tourist attraction and as a place to live. The park was built to help achieve that balance. I was president of the Little League at the time. Games had to be scheduled at the end of the summer, and any excuse, from various Triple Crown events to an auto rally, was used to cancel activities.
The park was built specifically so the commercial activities associated with the tourist economy would not drive the kids in town to the fringes of the calendar for their sports. Once Emerald Park was built, the city and the Chamber could schedule whatever they wanted at Howelsen Hill and the tennis center fields while the Steamboat Little League and the soccer association could schedule whatever they wanted on Emerald. Things have worked out more or less as planned. Triple Crown attempted to get access to the Emerald fields even before they were finished; they continue the effort each time their contract comes up for renewal — aided and abetted by the Chamber and its minions.
So, yes, the park discriminates against Triple Crown and other commercial users because the park was built as a refuge from the incursions their activities represent.
There also is a question of fairness. I was on the Parks and Recreation Commission when the fields were built. Words were spoken and promises were made to Pamela Lane as well as those who worked on the park.
It is true, as you say, that the chances of a different access to the park are unlikely. The geometry of the place, the proximity of the railroad property and various ownership issues make a reasonably expensive and practical solution difficult to conceive. A new access was unlikely at the time the fields were built; it is unlikely now.
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For this reason among others, restrictions were stipulated in the ordinance to mitigate the effect on the neighborhood — no lights allowed, only local youth sporting events were to be allowed and speed bumps would be installed. Because things have played out as expected is not reason to void measures that were taken to ameliorate an admittedly imperfect solution.
Steamboat Springs is a tourist-driven economy. Facilities need to be made available for use by tourists. The town needs to make a decision about whether to continue to target Triple Crown as the long-term driver of the summer economy. If the decision is made to do so, then the need for facilities needs to be defined and those facilities constructed to accommodate an agreed upon level of activity.
You speak of an experiment only. Such sweet reasonableness! My prophetic soul tells me, cynical as I am, that whatever the results, Triple Crown and their supporters would see a success. Soon, we would be back where we were before the park was built.
Ordinances certainly are subject to revision. Where commitments have been made to a significant portion of the community, those commitments only should be revised if there is some compelling reason. An additional 20 teams for Triple Crown is not a compelling reason.
Twenty years ago, people in the community saw a need, organized a broad group to meet that need, debated and compromised in every possible forum during a period of six years. As a result, fields were built with specific stipulations for their use. The Chamber has seen the need for commercial fields for at least that long and has not organized to get them built. If Triple Crown represents such a cascade of wealth that reneging on long-held commitments is justified to keep them happy, then surely it makes sense to tap into that torrent and invest in some commercial fields.
My strong conviction is that allowing Triple Crown or any other commercial operator into Emerald is a mistake and a breach of faith with the people who worked so hard to build the fields, the kids they built them for and with the people who live on Pamela Lane. You speak of economic loss. What about lost integrity?