Our View: Monitor Triple Crown agreement | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Monitor Triple Crown agreement

Triple Crown Sports baseball and softball tournaments are under way in Steamboat Springs for yet another summer, and that's a good thing for our local economy. With a new agreement in place between the city and Triple Crown, it's likely those tournaments will continue to visit Steamboat for another decade or so.

We're pleased the city and the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association were able to negotiate a new 10-year deal with Triple Crown — the City Council approved the agreement by a 6-1 vote last week — but we expect our elected officials to revisit the agreement annually because of some of its terms.

Under the new agreement, the city is required to pay Triple Crown a sponsorship fee of $65,000 to $80,000 a year, depending on the size and amount of Triple Crown events. That's in addition to the city's dedication of at least $75,000 annually for field improvements or development. Triple Crown would be required to pay at least $15,000 a year for local field improvements.

The sponsorship fee and field improvement costs are in line with what the city has paid to Triple Crown in recent years. But while the city's sponsorship fee can increase if there is a bump in event participation, it cannot decrease below $65,000 if fewer teams come.

That's a concern to which city officials have replied that the agreement with Triple Crown is non-binding and that Steamboat is not financially obligated to make those payments in future years. This is all well and good — but only if the city and Chamber are vigilant about making sure taxpayers are getting a return on their investment.

It's no secret that fewer teams are coming to Steamboat each summer for Triple Crown tournaments, and while the economy is certainly a contributing factor, the fact is that no matter how beautiful our community is, our playing fields just aren't up to snuff with the facilities offered in more urban areas. The expected standard is akin to what one would find at a minor league ballpark, not a Western Slope high school or city park.

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That's OK. It doesn't make sense — economically or otherwise — for a community our size to construct a multi-field sports complex to be used only half of the year. But more to the point, the writing is on the wall in terms of the number of Triple Crown teams who will make the effort to travel to Steamboat.

It's great that Dave King and his Triple Crown organization continue to see Steamboat as a viable option for some of their summer tournaments. We think most local businesses appreciate the influx of families who come here to play baseball and then eat in their restaurants, shop in their stores and sleep in their rooms.

But the reality that tournaments here will be smaller and Triple Crown's presence in other cities is increasing are clear reminders that diversification is the future of our year-round economy. Earlier this spring, we reported on a collaboration between Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and local mountain bike enthusiasts to develop more trails on the mountain. We also know that plans are afoot to develop Howelsen Hill and Emerald Mountain into a world class Nordic ski facility and year-round outdoor recreation center. We urge the Chamber and elected officials to put more investment into what can be next and not think that sitting pretty with what we have in hand today is good enough.