Pay to play: Steamboat could increase user fees for golf, ballfields to reduce facility subsidies |

Pay to play: Steamboat could increase user fees for golf, ballfields to reduce facility subsidies

Howelsen Hill Park contains ballfields, ski jumps, Alpine and Nordic skiing, the Howelsen Ice Arena and the rodeo grounds. The city is working to determine how it subsidizes different parks and recreation facilities and programs. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Some users could see changes in fees and operations as the city of Steamboat Springs considers how to recoup the cost of providing parks, ballfields and other recreation opportunities.

Parks and recreation, in many situations, is a losing game for the city.

At Little Toots Park, for example, the city pays the cost of watering and mowing the grass and maintaining playground equipment, but visitors get to enjoy the swing set and grass beneath their feet without paying an admission fee.

In some instances, such as at Haymaker Golf Course, users pay fees that cover the cost of operating the facility. At the same time, the general public can’t walk onto the green and start playing.

To develop a method to fairly determine where the city should be subsidizing the public’s use of parks and recreation facilities and where the city should place a greater share of the financial burden on users, the Parks and Recreation Commission has been working through a strategy to decide how to recover costs.

The Parks and Recreation Commission hoped to match the rate at which facilities are subsidized to the rate at which they serve the community — Little Toots Park is almost completely subsidized by the city, while user fees are used to maintain and operate Haymaker.

“I think an important part of this exercise was not just trying to figure out where fees should go, but it was to really understand where we’re spending our money, so we can make a policy decision on what it is we want to subsidize and at what level,” Parks and Recreation Commissioner Doug Tumminello told council at its March 5 meeting.

With input from Steamboat Springs City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission, parks facilities and programs were placed into five categories with recommended cost recovery goals:

  • Facilities that provide mostly a community benefit, including city parks, trails, open space and streetscaping, are expected to recoup up to 10 percent of the cost of maintaining and operating them.
  • Facilities that provide a considerable community benefit, including Howelsen Hill Ski Area and the rodeo grounds, are expected to recoup 10 to 25 percent of the cost.
  • Facilities that provide a balance of equal community and individual benefit, including youth programs and sports fields are expected to recoup 25 to 50 percent of the cost.
  • Facilities that provide a considerable individual benefit, including adult sports, the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs, Howelsen Ice Arena and the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Series are expected to recoup 50 to 80 percent of the cost.
  • Haymaker Golf Course, which provides mostly individual benefit, is expected to recoup 80 to 100 percent of the cost.

Of these 13 program areas, four aren’t currently meeting these cost recovery thresholds: Haymaker, the Town Challenge races, sports fields and the Tennis Center.

(Chart courtesy city of Steamboat Springs)

The Parks and Recreation Commission recommended some changes to operations and fees for these programs. Recreation and Enterprise Manager Kyrill Kretzschmar pointed out that cost reduction does not always require an increase in fees. Sponsorships, for example, could help the city recoup some programming costs. In all situations, the commission recommended staff seek to decrease the expense of operating these programs.

Under the commission recommendation, fees at Haymaker could see a 0.6 percent increase. Haymaker is currently recovering 79.5 percent of the cost of operating the facility, which is just under its goal.

The commission recommended a gradual increase in fees to participate in Town Challenge races and suggested partnering with another organization to host or co-host the event.

Cost recovery in sports fields differs between rectangular soccer and lacrosse fields and the diamonds that baseball and softball teams use. While rectangular fields are recovering 30.7 percent of the cost of upkeep, diamonds are recovering only 1.7 percent. This low cost recovery on diamond fields is what keeps the sports field category from its goal.

“It’s important to note that our biggest (sports field) customer right now has a special use agreement, and that’s Triple Crown,” Kretzschmar said.

Triple Crown Sports does not currently pay field use fees under its current contract with the city, though that contract expires in late 2020. One of the terms of Triple Crown’s use of Emerald Park this summer included paying field use fees on the fields. Staff hinted they would seek these field use fees as they negotiate a new contract with the company.

The Tennis Center is not meeting cost recovery goals because it is operated by a concessionaire. If the city’s and the concessionaire’s operational costs are combined, it is meeting its recommended cost recovery goal.

City Council instructed Parks and Recreation staff to bring forward a resolution adopting the new cost recovery strategy at a later date.

To view the city council’s discussion on this topic, visit

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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