Lodging tax finalists make closing arguments | SteamboatToday.com

Lodging tax finalists make closing arguments

Scott Franz

Members of the lodging tax committee talk with proponents of the Yampa River park and promenade Wednesday in Centennial Hall. The committee has not arrived at a final recommendation after hearing closing arguments from the three final applicants for the tax revenue.

— The three applicants still vying for Steamboat Springs’ lucrative lodging tax revenue will have to wait at least another two weeks to learn the fate of their projects.

During a three-hour meeting Wednesday in Centennial Hall, the applicants made their closing arguments to the committee that has spent months vetting the projects that aim to bring more visitors to Steamboat. But after debating the merits of the finalists for 30 minutes, the committee wasn’t able to settle on a final recommendation.

"There is no easy decision to eliminate any of the remaining proposals," committee chairman Larry Mashaw said after the meeting.

Proposals the committee still are weighing include the Downtown Revitalization Committee’s plan to build a park and promenade along Yampa Street, the Steamboat Springs Trails Alliance’s plan to build 46 new biking and multiuse trail segments and connections and the Howelsen Hill Sports Complex Partners’ desire to expand and enhance the amenities at Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain.

Last week, the committee 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 its future capital needs.

Although the committee on Wednesday didn’t eliminate any of the projects still hoping for some of the remaining 85 percent of the revenue, two frontrunners emerged.

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Citing a slew of concerns she had about the Howelsen Sports Complex project and its potential to require additional subsides from the city, Cari Hermacinski said she was trying to decide whether to fund the Yampa River parks project, the Trails Alliance’s project or some combination of both.

Mashaw also pondered whether the group could find a way for the tax support both of the proposals.

"I like the immediate gratification of the river parks and the long-term vision of the trails," he said.

But some other members of the lodging committee brought at least part of the Howelsen proposal back to the table when they said improvements to the rodeo arena, and the subsequent addition of new events there, could be a big tourist draw that fills hotel rooms.

The applicants spent a lot of time Wednesday talking about the allure of their projects.

Speaking for the Howelsen Hill Sports Complex, Laura Sankey said if the project is picked, the tax revenue would support "incredible diversity" that includes trail projects for cross-country skiing, hiking and biking. The massive project also includes the establishment of a gravity center complete with an indoor skate park as well as improvements to Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

Representing the Trails Alliance, Grant Fenton said his group’s project would add signature trails to town and greatly enhance the Steamboat Springs Bike Town USA Initiative.

And downtown developer Mark Scully said the addition of several parks and a promenade on Yampa Street will open the door to a slew of new downtown events and ultimately make Steamboat a more attractive vacation spot for families.

"We think this project will be a ride everyone can enjoy," he told the committee.

Mashaw said the presentations and the extensive Q-and-A sessions did bring the committee closer to making a recommendation.

"We’re getting close," Mashaw said following the meeting. "We are coming to the culmination."

The committee plans to meet April 17 with the goal of arriving at that final recommendation.

The proposal then will be brought to the Steamboat Springs City Council, which can accept or deny the proposal.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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