Our view: Diamonds and emerald

At issue

Whether to allow limited use of Emerald Park ball diamonds now that an alternative road access is near

Our view

As long as use of playing fields by local youth is assured, there's no practical reason not to let Triple Crown build on its successful youth sports program.

Congratulations to city of Steamboat Springs officials who have accomplished what we previously believed could not be done. They’ve achieved the holy grail of compromises and successfully negotiated an understanding with Union Pacific Railroad to close a crossing on Trafalgar Drive in exchange for a new crossing just up the road and south of the Hampton Inn.

The swap of at-grade railroad crossings will effectively move access to Emerald Park and the Yampa River Botanic Park away from the long-suffering residential neighborhood on Pamela Lane to the new access. Local, regional and national youth sports events, along with visitation to Yampa River Botanic Park, have generated traffic peaks on the dead-end Pamela Lane that exceed what most suburban-style residential neighborhoods here experience. That would all change for the better if the city is able to finalize its plans for the new park access.

We also believe the swap removes any reasonable objections to ongoing requests from Triple Crown Sports to use baseball diamonds at Emerald Park to host the destination baseball tournaments that have pumped so many dollars into the local economy for decades. We would advocate that City Council enable limited use of the Emerald Park diamonds, making sure in the process that the destination ball games don’t harm access for local baseball and soccer teams.

We’ve devoted ample ink in the past to pointing out how successfully Triple Crown has filled our local resort lodging properties in the summer months. Former Chamber CEO Tom Kern summarized it succinctly in 2013 when he pointed out that Triple Crown brings in 16,000 people, including families of baseball players, annually, spending $6 million on lodging alone.

Steamboat Today reported April 29 that members of the board of the Yampa River Botanic Park are opposed to giving Triple Crown access to the Emerald Park ballfields, in part because the noise of fans cheering could disrupt the weddings that take place in the gardens.

We consider the botanic park to be one of the city’s gems. But we also see several sources of irony in the objections to Triple Crown. One is that the Botanic Park drives a modest share of the vehicular traffic that irritates Pamela Lane homeowners. Another is that we believe parents of Triple Crown players are apt to become some of the biggest fans of the botanic park and the serene break it affords from balls and strikes. A third source of irony is that every wedding runs the risk of an unscheduled coal train rumbling by.

How bad could it be if, at a botanic park wedding, a young baseball player swatted a home run just as the pastor said, “I now pronounce you man and wife,” followed by coincidental cheering from the ballpark. We think it would become a lasting memory.

We are aware that a significant number of community members feel the balance has swung too far in Steamboat toward the pursuit of the almighty tourist dollar. But for better or worse, this is a resort community without a municipal property tax, and that means the good life, which people of all socio-economic backgrounds enjoy, depends heavily on sales tax generation.

We learned a long time ago that sports tournaments for youths, and families brought along for vacation, represent one of the most cost effective ways to help keep one of the best little cities in America prosperous. It’s time to enter a new era at Emerald Park.

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