Steamboat City Council narrows potential sports barn locations to 2 options
At their Tuesday meeting, Steamboat Springs City Council members agreed they wanted to move forward on the construction of an indoor sports barn but shared differing opinions on where the barn should be constructed. Council President Jason Lacy recused himself from the discussion because of a conflict of interest.
When the idea was first proposed, council members considered 10 locations, then narrowed them down to Whistler Park, Bear River Park and Howelsen Park. During Tuesday’s discussion, council members officially ruled out Whistler, claiming it is already too crowded, and the community values its use as an area for dogs.
“I personally will run the campaign against (Whistler Park), and I think I’ll be joined by Steamboat Digs Dogs,” said council member Sonja Macys.
Council members Lisel Petis and Robin Crossan argued in favor of Howelsen because it is centrally located, and there are other sporting options at the park. However, both council members agreed it would be difficult to put more parking at Howelsen, and they did not want to create more traffic on Lincoln Avenue.
“Where are we going to put all of these people?” Crossan asked. “Howelsen is the right choice to keep everything in one spot, but we don’t need more cars going down Lincoln, coming across the Fifth Street bridge and not having the parking for it.”
Crossan said she also liked the Bear River Park option, because of its proximity to the future Sleeping Giant School and the lack of options for recreation on the west side of town.
“It’s accessible, and there will be a lot more room for parking,” Crossan said. “This could be a super cool thing to do where we have more outdoor areas.”
Whichever option council chooses, the Parks and Recreation Department and Steamboat Sports Barn, a private nonprofit heading the initiative for the facility, will have to complete a study assessing parking, traffic and open space impacts.
Macys said while Bear River Park has the advantage of being less crowded and bringing more people to the west side, the park sits on a former wetland, which Macys said she was concerned about.
“We’re losing open space,” Macys said. “I think we have a disproportionate emphasis on developed recreation in our parks, and I would like to see more of an emphasis on open space.”
Leon Rinck, Steamboat Sports Barn president, originally proposed the facility be primarily used by sports teams, with limited space for other residents.
While council members shared varying views on where the park should go, all six agreed on one principle: If the park is going to be built on taxpayer-funded city land, it should be accessible to community residents who are not involved in an official organization.
“You’re suggesting having taxpayer dollars being used for private use, and I can’t support something like that unless there is a very hard window of opportunity for people in the public to come and use that facility,” said council member Heather Sloop. “Public land should be for the public.”
Seven residents involved in community sports spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, emphasizing that no matter where the council chooses to put the building, such a facility is desperately needed in Steamboat, as indoor sports teams have nowhere to play except at their schools.
“We want an opportunity for our kids to play the sport that they love year round,” said Joey Rind, a Steamboat Springs Youth Soccer Association coach. “Please invest in our youth. They deserve our support.”
Others who spoke said the facility was vital to providing equitable opportunities for youth in Routt County, particularly those outside of Steamboat.
“A facility like this would make our community more inclusive,” said Angelica Salinas, an Oak Creek resident and coaching director for Whiteout Volleyball Club. “All of the indoor sports we represent have a low barrier financially, especially compared to outdoor sports like skiing and riding.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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