Steamboat City Council reconsiders special events process following tensions with Triple Crown

The city of Steamboat Springs' proposed events permitting process. (Courtesy)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sparked by a community discussion around Triple Crown Sports, Steamboat Springs City Council is revisiting its special events policy, which all groups, local or otherwise, are required to follow if they want to hold an event in town.

Council members first suggested taking another look at the city’s special events process after they voted 4-3 not to renew a contract with Triple Crown Sports, and Triple Crown applied to return through the special event process.

During a discussion at Tuesday night’s council meeting, council members said they mainly wanted to focus the conversation around local versus non-local events, as many members said they believed local events should be given priority.

“When I’ve been at (Colorado Association of Ski Towns) meetings, there has been this huge push to make sure events are being held for locals and make sure locals aren’t being pushed out every summer week or weekend,” said council member Heather Sloop, who represents Steamboat in the organization. “Making sure there’s an inclusivity to people who live in those communities is a huge priority.”

City Council developed the special activity permit process over a two-year period, and in 2019, council adopted policies that defined event categories. These policies classified venues that can be permitted for an event, the capacity of a venue, the capacity of services the city can provide and the number of events that can take place in a general area. The policies also defined reasons for denial of a permit and specified the city manager’s role in setting deadlines and fees.

City Manager Gary Suiter said while the idea of prioritizing local events may sound nice, in practice, it often hurts businesses, as local residents don’t spend money in the same way visitors do.

“When you have events that are primarily for locals, the locals love it, but the businesses not so much, because locals don’t spend money to go out and frequent businesses,” Suiter said. “Restaurants and bars typically do OK, but retail shops just close down, because locals don’t shop, but visitors do.”

Suiter also said the discussion is part of a larger conversation about tourism.

“One of the balancing acts of tourism is if we do things just for locals, they’re going to cost more money, and businesses tend to not be as supportive of that,” Suiter added.

Other council members questioned whether or not local events were actually being put on the back burner or not.

“I’m trying to figure out if we even have a problem here,” City Council President Jason Lacy said. “Do we have any local groups who’ve been denied because an outside group got there first?”

Winnie DelliQuadri, Steamboat special projects and intergovernmental services manager, said the city implemented its policy to allow existing groups to have a two-year window for reservations for this reason.

Most events throughout the past year were canceled due to COVID-19, which is why council members felt now was the appropriate time to discuss the future of events in Steamboat.

“Because of what we’ve seen and the metrics from last summer and the sales tax revenue that came in with no events, let’s revisit this in the fall,” said council member Robin Crossan.

Council took no action but scheduled a work session on the subject for the fall.

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