Our View: Less talk, more action
February 17, 2008
The availability of adequate athletic fields continues to be one of the biggest hurdles between Triple Crown Sports and a long-term contract with the Northwest Colorado communities that play host to the tournaments each summer. That hurdle arose again this week when it was revealed that Triple Crown wants to use Emerald Park fields as part of a proposed two-year contract extension.
Triple Crown President Dave King has said for years he won’t continue to bring his youth and adult baseball and softball tournaments to the Yampa Valley unless more and better fields are provided. King, who consistently has lobbied for use of the Emerald Park fields, also has been a proponent of a new regional sports complex that would include more than a dozen playing fields at a specific site. But numerous obstacles stand in the way of such a complex, particularly location and cost.
The result is the proposed two-year contract extension between Triple Crown and the city. King wants use of the Emerald Park fields from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. four days a week during the World Series softball and baseball tournaments. The World Series tournaments make up three weeks of the 10-week Triple Crown schedule.
City-owned Emerald Park is off Pamela Lane between downtown Steamboat Springs and the mountain area. The park is adjacent to the western boundary of Yampa River Botanic Park. Pamela Lane provides the only vehicular access to Emerald Park, and Pamela Lane residents always have been promised that Triple Crown games would never be held at those fields.
But keeping Triple Crown games out of Emerald Park shouldn’t be the issue. After all, a variety of sports games and tournaments are held at Emerald Park throughout the summer, including Little League, lacrosse and soccer tournaments that bring an equal number of cars and people – if not more. Those events pose the same problem as Triple Crown tournaments – a glut of vehicular traffic on Pamela Lane.
Ultimately, the issue with Emerald Park is the lack of secondary access. The access issue isn’t new and is not easily resolved. Creating direct road access from U.S. Highway 40 to Emerald Park would necessitate an easement from Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks run between U.S. 40 and the park. Such an access would be expensive and difficult to build.
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With a short-term answer to secondary access extremely unlikely, we’re forced to return to the issue of a lack of fields to satisfy Triple Crown’s needs. Discussions about a regional sports complex to be built in Hayden are ongoing, but there has been resistance from local governments as to who should fund the complex and to what degree. The bottom line is that Northwest Colorado must decide whether it wants Triple Crown to have a long-term presence here. If so, local governments, the Chamber, private businesses and Triple Crown must turn talk into action.
We remain convinced that Triple Crown is an essential and necessary component of our summer tourism economy, particularly given the absence of any other major tourism driver during the non-ski months.
An economic impact study commissioned by the Yampa Valley Economic Development Council in fall 2006 stated that the athletic tournaments bring about 32,000 visitors and $1.19 million in sales and lodging tax revenues to Northwest Colorado every summer.
Critics of Triple Crown argue that other events could bring in similar revenues, but as we’ve said before, there aren’t many events for which one vendor will supply thousands of tourists for extended stays every week for 10 weeks.
In the meantime, the city and Chamber must negotiate in good faith with Pamela Lane residents if the Emerald Park fields are to be used by Triple Crown. All parties that negotiated the existing agreement should be involved in any changes to that agreement.