Steamboat Chamber predicts increase in visitors this weekend from 2009 |

Steamboat Chamber predicts increase in visitors this weekend from 2009

— A crowd of tourists larger than last year's is expected this weekend in Steamboat Springs, and some reports indicate that next week's July Fourth crowd could be larger, as well.

That's good news, and not a moment too soon for struggling downtown businesses, some local leaders said.

"We're counting on it," Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said when asked about the promising forecast. "Downtown is really ready for the season to get going, and the merchants are really looking forward to that weekend to help them through. It's been a tough couple of months, and we're ready for summer to begin."

Construction on Lincoln Ave­nue through downtown Steam­boat Springs has had a nasty effect on businesses on Steamboat's main street, Bar­nett said. Work has been ongoing on the road since early April, and crews are scheduled to take a two-month hiatus starting Thursday.

"Those businesses are just excited to have parking places back in front of their stores," Barnett said. "They've had people come in and say, 'Is it OK if I park there?' and they're saying, 'Yes, please!'"

The lodging barometer released Wednesday by the Steam­boat Springs Chamber Re­sort Asso­ciation indicated that 56 percent of the city's available lodging would be used tonight, a nice step up from last year's 49 percent occupancy rate on the same weekend.

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AAA Colorado, meanwhile, announced that it expected a jump of 19.9 percent when it comes to travelers driving to the Rocky Mountain states, including Colorado, for Independence Day weekend. That follows steep declines in 2008 and 2009.

The agency also expected an increase of air travelers of nearly 10 percent.

Sandy Evans Hall, the Chamber's executive vice president, said this weekend received a bump from a larger-than-expected Triple Crown youth baseball tournament and next weekend should be one of the best of the summer.

"The Fourth is looking close to where it was last year right now, and we expect it to pick up some between now and then," she said.

She pointed to such visitor attractions as the two performances next weekend of the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series — Saturday and Sunday nights in a departure from the usual Friday and Saturday schedule — and a $10,000 grant that will help maintain the city's fireworks display as one of the state's best.

"The more we have going on here in town, the better experience it will be for guests, and there are all kinds of satisfiers that weekend," Evans Hall said. "There will be a lot going on for the July Fourth weekend, and it's a great way to kick off our summer."