Steamboat lodging tax committee moves closer to final recommendation
March 26, 2013
Steamboat Springs — The committee vetting the final five proposals for Steamboat Springs’ lodging tax Tuesday morning edged closer to making a final recommendation for how the revenue should be spent.
After more than an hour of discussion in Centennial Hall, the committee winnowed the field of viable proposals to four and agreed that 15 percent of the revenue stream that nets $600,000 to $800,000 annually should be funneled into a reserve fund, with half of that going to Haymaker Golf Course for future capital needs.
The golf course has been a beneficiary of the city’s 1 percent lodging tax since 1995, and it is requesting more of the revenue to pay for future needs, such as a new irrigation system estimated to cost $5 million.
Committee members said cutting off the course from the tax revenue now could put the amenity at risk.
"I think we all agreed last week we cannot afford as a city to let Haymaker go downhill," committee Chairman Larry Mashaw said at the start of the meeting. "The question is whether it’s the best use of these funds or it becomes a city obligation exclusive of the" accommodations tax.
If the lodging tax generated $650,000 in a given year, Haymaker’s annual share would come in at $48,750. The golf course is seeking $190,000 of the revenue annually for at least five years.
Lodging tax committee members said Tuesday that the lower amount they are recommending for the amenity could put the course’s "feet to the fire" and spur it to find ways to generate additional revenue on its own.
Several committee members said the course has opportunities to increase its revenue, including charging more to play and finding revenue opportunities outside of the summer.
The committee spent the remainder of its meeting discussing how it should recommend the remaining 85 percent of the revenue stream be spent.
Proposals still being considered include the Downtown Revitalization Committee‘s plan to build a Yampa River Park and promenade along Yampa Street, the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance‘s plan to build 46 new biking and multi-use trail segments and connections and the Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partners‘ desire to expand and enhance the amenities at Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain.
The committee agreed to call back those three applicants for a series of discussions April 3.
A proposal from Friends of the Chief to convert the historic downtown theater into a performing arts center was passed over by the committee after several of its members raised concerns about the proposal.
Holiday Inn owner Scott Marr said he "had big issues with taking public money and putting it into private organizations."
Committee member Kenny Reisman questioned whether the proposal from the nonprofit would fulfill the ballot language that created the tax.
And other committee members were concerned about the theater’s ownership structure.
But some in the room were open to funding improvements to the theater.
"If it’s managed and marketed well … it could be a pretty good bang for the buck," committee member Tom Ptach said, adding that the amenity could be a keystone to a fine arts tourism base in Steamboat.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Mashaw said the committee’s recommendations could change in the coming weeks.
He added that although the Chief wasn’t invited back for further discussion with the committee, the proposal "hasn’t officially been eliminated."
The committee is scheduled to bring to the Steamboat Springs City Council in May a final recommendation on how to spend the tax revenue.
The committee spent much of its Tuesday meeting weighing each of the final proposals’ potential to attract visitors to the area.
If the full scope of the trails project is completed, the committee said it could become a big new amenity for Steamboat, but the committee pondered the risk of spending local dollars on some trails that will be built on federal land owned by the U.S. Forest Service.
The committee then discussed whether the trails would be more of a draw for residents or visitors.
Marr said most of his hotel guests are families who want to ride on trails like the Yampa River Core Trail, not advanced trails that are part of the Trails Alliance’s proposals.
Yampa River Park
Discussion on the Yampa River Park proposal centered on figuring out how to ensure any new infrastructure on Yampa paid for by the accommodations tax would be maintained.
The committee said it wouldn’t want to pay for the project until maintenance agreements were in place with property owners or a revenue stream, like a funded business improvement district, is approved to pay for the maintenance.
Some committee members said the project could be a tourism draw year-round.
Howelsen Sports Complex
Committee members discussed the potential future liability the projects could be for the city that already heavily subsidizes Howelsen Hill.
Committee member Cari Hermacinski questioned how the city could avoid increasing that subsidy if millions of dollars’ worth of new infrastructure is added.
Council members agreed some aspects of the project, such as adding another sheet of ice at the sports complex and upgrading the rodeo arena, could be a boon for tourism.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com