3 semi-finalists picked in competition for Steamboat lodging tax funds | SteamboatToday.com

3 semi-finalists picked in competition for Steamboat lodging tax funds

The leading proposals included a Howelsen Ice Arena expansion, the restoration of the Arnold Barn and an expansion project at the Old Town Hot Springs.
Photo collage/Scott Franz

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A facility that brands itself the “coolest place in town,” a local recreation center known for its rejuvenating water and a historic barn in need of some TLC are the top contenders to get some lodging tax money in Steamboat Springs.

A committee created to recommend how the city should spend more than $1 million in reserve lodging tax revenue recently graded 14 proposals for the money that came in from the community.

The three proposals leading the pack after the committee’s scoring process include the proposed expansion projects at the Howelsen Ice Arena and Old Town Hot Springs along with the restoration of the Arnold Barn.

“Some proposals didn’t meet the intent (of the lodging tax) ballot language, so some went off pretty quickly,” committee member Scott Marr said Tuesday.

As an example, he said the city of Steamboat Springs’ proposal to use the reserve lodging tax money on public restrooms was among the proposals that quickly fell to the bottom of the heap.

Projects were graded on how they met the ballot language, which created the lodging tax, and such things as the project’s shovel readiness.

The three top contenders have been invited to present to the committee at 12:15 p.m. Sept. 1 in Centennial Hall downtown.

It will ultimately be up to the Steamboat Springs City Council which of the 14 proposals should get the money, or if the money should be spent at this time at all.

Next week’s meeting will be open to the public.

“The 14 projects submitted were each excellent projects with significant benefits for the community, and we thank each and every applicant for the time and energy that was spent on their application,” the committee wrote in a statement on the city’s website.

The projects the committee passed over ranged from a project to expand the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs to add more pickleball courts to a request to improve dog parks around the city.

Here’s a breakdown of the leading proposals, as well as an explanation of where this lodging tax money comes from.

Arnold Barn entry feature, Historic Routt County, $295,000

Historic preservationists are hoping the lodging tax money could be used to help preserve and spruce up a rare relic of Steamboat’s western heritage.

Historic Routt County’s proposal is to use some of the funds to help make the historic Arnold Barn an iconic entry feature near the base of Steamboat Ski Area.

The barn, which was built in 1928 on a dairy farm, is currently sagging at a corner of the Meadows Parking lot and is not accessible to the public.

The plan is to move it up to the knoll near the Steamboat Grand, where people could stop and take pictures of it and learn more about its history through interpretive signs.

Blueprints for the barn’s move up the hill from its current location are already being drawn, but funding is still needed to execute the project.

“Many will visit the Arnold Barn, a year-round attraction accessible to all, to learn more about the area’s rich agricultural heritage,” the proposal reads.

Old Town Hot Springs expansion, $1 million

The nonprofit is seeking the tax money to help fund a major expansion project at its facility. The facility is planning to expand its weightlifting and fitness rooms and also adding more spaces for additional community needs, including classes for senior citizens, youth and groups with special needs.

“Remodeled areas in the existing building will allow for a second family changing room, locker room upgrades and a modernizing facelift to the existing building,” the nonprofit wrote in its proposal. “These improvements and the new look will be a major attraction for visitors, along with the beautiful hot springs.”

Ice Arena expansion, Youth Hockey Association, $1 million

This proposal would add 4,346 square feet to the concession area, 3,997 square feet of additional locker room space and a 25,806-square-foot open area structure that will facilitate a second sheet of ice in the winter and a practice field in the summer.

“In addition to the needs of the ice facility, the community will benefit during the spring, summer and fall by having a covered facility that will be available to the soccer, lacrosse and baseball youth organizations,” proponents wrote in the application.

Where did the tax money come from?

The lodging tax money comes from a 1 percent tax tourists pay on nightly stays in the city limits.

This tax was created in 1986 after voters approved the following proposal: Shall the City Council of Steamboat Springs, in order to provide revenues to fund development of improvements and amenities in Steamboat Springs which will promote tourism and enhance the vitality of Steamboat Springs as a premier destination resort, and enhance the community identity, environmental desirability and economic health of Steamboat Springs, enact an ordinance levying a lodging tax of 1 percent on public accommodations of less than 30 days?”

The tax has previously been used to construct the Haymaker Golf Course and the tennis bubble.

City voters in 2013 overwhelmingly approved a plan to dedicate most of the lodging tax revenue collected in the city to area trail projects and the creation of the new Workman Park on Yampa Street for the next decade.

Some money also went toward marketing of the new trails and a capital improvement fund at Haymaker Golf Course.

Under the ballot language, any lodging tax revenue above $660,000 collected each year goes into a reserve fund that the council has the discretion to spend, as long as it meets the original ballot language that created the 1 percent tax on overnight stays in the city.

It is this pot of money that is being sought today.

View all of the proposals online here.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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