Steamboat City Council votes 4-3 not to renew contract with Triple Crown for annual tournament series
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After months of discussion, the fate of a contract between the city of Steamboat Springs and Triple Crown Sports was sealed in a 4-3 vote Tuesday evening, with the majority of Steamboat Springs City Council voting to deny a 2021 contract.
Unless it follows the standard process to apply for field use in Steamboat, Triple Crown Sports will not be returning this summer.
Council members Michael Buccino, Sonja Macys, Heather Sloop and President Jason Lacy voted against a contract with the youth sports league, as members Lisel Petis, Kathi Meyer and Robin Crossan voted in support.
Council members were voting on a contract that many council members had described as “Triple Crown light.” In the revised contract, Triple Crown agreed to pay $35,000 to $40,000 in field use fees each year, and the city was not required to pay a sponsorship fee or offer any capital investment to support the tournaments. The contract also specified play would be limited to youth events, with no more than 70 teams for Triple Crown’s largest events.
Discussions on Triple Crown’s future began last summer when Keri King, CEO of Triple Crown Sports, submitted a variance request asking the Routt County Board of Health for permission to host the tournaments in July and August 2020, according to Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter. The county requested input from council before making a decision on whether to forward the variance request to the state. In June, council members unanimously voted not to endorse the request.
In October, council and Triple Crown each proposed options relating to public health guidelines, field-use fees and city sponsorship fees, and council members expressed mixed feelings over a partnership. The contract discussed by council Tuesday came after months of negotiations between the two entities.
Macys, who voted to deny Triple Crown’s return, said her decision came after speaking with numerous service workers who told “nightmare stories” about Triple Crown, such as team members throwing chicken wings off hotel balconies and landscapers being pushed into swimming pools.
“Higher-ups and heads of lodging love Triple Crown, but the people cleaning up and checking them in don’t,” Macys said. “We’ve had an outpouring of ‘no’ responses from members of the community.”
Buccino, who made a motion to vote against the new contract, said his decision came after hearing from a large number of residents who said the damage Triple Crown causes outweighs the sales tax income it brings in. Buccino also referenced a survey sent to local business owners this summer seeking input on Triple Crown. In the survey, 37% of respondents said they were not supportive of the city working with Triple Crown Sports.
“Our job is to hear from our constituents, and I’ve done a lot of asking questions, and I just can’t get past the survey where they said to vote (against Triple Crown),” Buccino told council.
While many residents who spoke out against Triple Crown felt COVID-19 was reason enough not to allow for the tournament’s return, Sloop said she believed council should also look at other reasons why so many do not favor the tournament series.
“We received so many comments that had nothing to do with COVID and said they still did not want Triple Crown back,” Sloop said.
Council members who voted in favor of Triple Crown’s return said the money teams bring into the city cannot be passed up in a year when so many local businesses have struggled due to COVID-19.
“There’s a broken relationship with Triple Crown in our community, but this is not the year to rock the boat when we’re trying to do everything we can to support our businesses,” Petis said. “I just can’t support (denying Triple Crown’s return) this year knowing how our local businesses are struggling.”
Kara Stoller, CEO of the Steamboat Springs Chamber, has spoken in support of Triple Crown, telling council that getting through effects of COVID-19 will require as much support as possible and “having a guarantee of business coming early summer next year provides a lot of additional hope and ability for businesses to plan on.”
Council member Meyer agreed with Stoller and Petis.
“This would be a real challenge we’re throwing down to businesses,” Meyer said.
“I think it’s really unfair that the Chamber has tried to set this up as a for-or-against-business thing,” Macys countered.
The only way for Triple Crown to potentially return is if the organization applied to use the city’s fields though the special events process, according to Angela Cosby, director of Steamboat Parks and Recreation. Without a contract, Triple Crown would be held to the same requirements like those for other events such as Winter Carnival and the Steamboat Marathon. Triple Crown would no longer have fees waived or access to other benefits. It would also have to reapply each year, and those applications are reviewed and approved by city staff.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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