Council seeks more details on projected cost, usage of proposed pickleball center
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Loretta Conway, business development director and vice president of Steamboat Tennis and Court Sports, presented Steamboat Springs City Council with an updated business plan for a proposed pickleball center at council’s meeting Tuesday night. She also introduced a new nonprofit, Court Sports 4 Life, which was created to spearhead the fundraising efforts for the center and, eventually, take over operations of the entire complex.
After listening to the presentation, council asked Conway to provide them with further details regarding the estimated $8 million cost, as well as projected usage of the new building. Council expressed concerns the city could inherit a half-finished building, or the center might not generate enough revenue to stay afloat.
Conway and representatives from Court Sports 4 Life will present answers to council’s questions, as well as a draft of a proposed contract, at a future executive session. Fundraising for the building will not begin until after the contract has been negotiated and agreed upon.
The Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs and the land it sits on are owned by the city, and the Conways are contracted to operate the facility as concessionaires.
Approximately 35 to 40 people attended Tuesday’s meeting, wielding pickleball paddles, in support of the pickleball center.
The proposed building will be 35,000 square feet, including 12 indoor courts and six outdoor courts, a lobby and locker rooms. The construction will take away two of the three existing clay tennis courts and add 24 parking spaces.
Under the current plan, the new building would be built perpendicular to the existing building on the north end of the tennis center. It’s estimated to cost about $8 million, but if the funds aren’t there by fall 2021, Conway said they would explore less-expensive options.
While Bill and Loretta Conway will still manage the complex, Court Sports 4 Life is hoping to take ownership of the buildings while leasing the land from the city. The nonprofit is still in the process of acquiring its 501(c)3 status but has already established a board, with part-time Steamboat resident Steve Modzelewski serving as chair.
“We need to work out a transition agreement where we don’t get ahead of our skis, so to speak, so you can be assured we won’t proceed until you know we can complete the project,” Modzelewski said to council.
As mentioned in the presentation, the Tennis Center experiences 35% court usage in the summer and 55% court usage in the winter. Conway said a “conservative projection” of 33% usage of the indoor courts at the pickleball building would cover operating expenses.
Council member Lisel Petis asked Conway to break down usage numbers even further at a future meeting.
“I appreciate the optimism, and you can see the passion for pickleball in our community,” Petis said. “I just worry about whether it’s the optimism or the substantiation of the numbers. … I just feel the numbers right now are a little loose.”
Conway said the Tennis Center saw a 260% increase in pickleball court usage from summer 2018 to summer 2019, with no decrease in tennis court usage. A larger facility would allow the center to host tournaments that would bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of people and bolster the local economy by nearly $600,000 in the first year.
“I’m so confident it’s going to be pickleball filling that building,” Conway said.
This is not the first time the proposed pickleball center has been presented to council. In January 2019, City Council asked Parks and Recreation to review and consider the indoor pickleball facility proposal.
In September, Parks and Recreation recommended the council approve the plan, with the only additional assistance from the city being staff time dedicated to researching and writing grants.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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