Lodging tax up for grabs in Steamboat Springs
City revenue expected to attract a crowded field of suitors
June 6, 2012
Steamboat Springs — The future of Steamboat Springs' lodging tax likely won't be decided until December, but one thing about the annual revenue stream already is certain: Several suitors are preparing to ask for a piece of it.
The city on Wednesday initiated the first step in identifying the future use of the tax by asking community members and groups who have ideas about how to spend the money to submit a two-page description of their proposal by July 16.
The city's newly formed lodging tax committee, which includes two City Council members, one public representative and three members of Steamboat's Lodging Association, will look at the applications and choose which qualified proposals they want to see resubmitted in more detail. The six-member committee then will narrow the list of ideas to a few finalists in September.
Since 1995, the city's 1 percent lodging tax exclusively has supported the Haymaker Golf Course. But it will be freed up from that use in 2014.
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The tax generated $635,000 in 2011 and typically nets between $650,000 and $800,000 annually.
Steamboat voters approved the tax in 1986, and it since has supported the city's golf course, the construction of the original Strings Music Festival tent and the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
City Council member Kenny Reisman, who serves on the lodging tax committee, said Wednesday that he expects to see an abundance of worthy proposals.
"It's kind of exciting," Reisman said. "There are so many great minds in this community and such great desires and ideas that would benefit the entire community. I think it's going to be exciting to see what kind of ideas we get."
To adhere to the ballot language that created the tax, its future use must promote tourism in Steamboat and enhance the city's vitality as a destination resort, community identity, environmental desirability and economic health, according to the city's application for the funding.
Planning to apply
Earlier this week, the Steamboat Springs School District became one of the first entities to publicly express an interest in the tax revenue.
Superintendent Brad Meeks and the School Board on Monday night agreed to have the district's facilities committee meet Friday to identify projects that could be supported by the tax revenue.
The School Board briefly discussed a proposal to construct a field house at Steamboat Springs High School that could be shared with the public and host an indoor track and practice field, among other things. Board President Brian Kelly said Wednesday that the field house, which the district previously has estimated would cost $3 million to $4 million, could benefit the entire community.
"You look at the different amenities the community has to attract visitors from all over the world, and one of the things missing is a field house," Kelly said. "We've got a tennis center, an ice skating rink and a hot springs pool. But if you're a visitor in town who wants to shoot hoops or run track in the winter, there is no such thing."
Fellow School Board member Robin Crossan suggested the tax could be used to construct ball fields on the 35 acres of land the district owns three miles west of Steamboat.
Any proposal from the school district is likely to have competition, including applications that are expected to come from recreational groups wanting to see the tax used to support and maintain existing facilities.
Haymaker Golf Committee President John Vanderbloemen said his board likely will ask the city to use the tax revenue to support the course's long-term, unmet capital needs.
Steamboat Tennis Association President Bill Krueger said part of the tax should go toward maintaining the city's existing recreational facilities, including the Tennis Center and Howelsen Ice Arena.
"We've got these great facilities the accommodations tax helped to pay for, but you have to replace the fabric," Krueger said. "You have to buy new nets and resurface the (tennis) courts. We've got great world-class facilities here. Let's keep them that way."
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com