Triple Crown will return to Steamboat, after threatening to sue city |

Triple Crown will return to Steamboat, after threatening to sue city

The annual Triple Crown has traditionally packed the fields at Howelsen Hill each year throughout the summer. The event did not return in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will return in June 2021. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After a monthslong, often dramatic debate with Steamboat Springs City Council, it was decided Tuesday that Triple Crown Sports will return to Steamboat to play two tournaments in June.

Council voted 4-3 in January not to renew Triple Crown’s two-year contract, but the youth sports league applied to return through the city’s special events process, which event organizers are required to complete if they want to host an event in Steamboat.

That application was the subject of discussion Tuesday night. It was also revealed at the council meeting that Triple Crown sent a letter to city officials threatening to sue the city.

“’If City Council cancels Triple Crown without some type of legal justification, we will be suing the city of Steamboat Springs through antitrust litigation. We would seek representation from the most prominent antitrust litigation law firm,” stated the letter, portions of which were read aloud by council member Sonja Macys.

The letter also claimed Triple Crown staff was concerned Steamboat residents or other visitors could inflict physical harm onto them, which many council members said they found deeply troubling. Steamboat Pilot & Today requested a copy of the letter through a Colorado Open Records Act request Tuesday night, and it was sent to the newspaper Wednesday afternoon.

“If there is that concern out there that our residents are going to harm someone, why would we bring that group here?” Macys asked council. “This is not like any other situation in the sense that we have a threat of a lawsuit and a safety concern here.”

Other council members said they believed threatening a lawsuit only further hurt the city’s already rocky relationship with Triple Crown.

“I was pretty disgusted by the threat of the lawsuit,” said council member Lisel Petis. “We asked Triple Crown to repair the relationship with our community, and that was a huge slap in the face, I thought.”

In an effort to mediate Triple Crown’s negative impact on the community, City Manager Gary Suiter, who ultimately approved Triple Crown’s return, told council Triple Crown would only be able to hold events in June with only 70 teams competing.

Triple Crown applied to use fields at Howelsen Hill and Emerald Park, though several council members raised issue with playing at Emerald Park, as the city’s website states Emerald Park is only permitted for local organizations, and Triple Crown is based in Fort Collins.

Discussion about Triple Crown's future at Emerald Park drew a large crowd to Citizens Hall during a Steamboat Springs City Council meeting in 2017. (File photo)

“For a long time, there was an understanding that the use of Emerald Park fields would be limited to local youth events, and that came up in the context of Triple Crown,” City Attorney Dan Foote said. “My understanding is that we then dropped that policy when we reconstructed the access to Emerald Park.”

Still, council members were reluctant to allow Triple Crown access when other out-of-town organizations were denied, or to deny Triple Crown access but permit others. Suiter said he would research the issue before granting the permit.

Suiter also said the Triple Crown debate has become part of a larger conversation as to whether the Steamboat community wants more tourism and events.

“One of the balancing acts of tourism is if we do things just for locals,” Suiter said. “Businesses aren’t as supportive of that because locals don’t spend money the way tourists do. This is a bigger discussion about how does this community feel about tourism and events.”

Though Petis expressed support for Triple Crown’s return, she said she did so to benefit local businesses, not to benefit Triple Crown.

“I care a lot about our businesses, and I’m concerned about them coming out of a winter season that hasn’t been great,” Petis said.

Joe Kboudi, owner of River Blue T-Shirt Shop in Steamboat, urged Suiter and council to support Triple Crown’s return during the public comment portion of the meeting. Kboudi said retail shops depend on them, and Triple Crown customers are polite and respectful.

“I see tourists from all over the world come into the T-shirt shop I work at, and these people are as nice as I’ve ever seen,” Kboudi said. “I think they’re good folks, and they’re respectful.”

Suiter said support for local businesses, which have taken a hit due to COVID-19, played a large role in his decision to approve its application.

“I had to weigh this against the economic impact, and I considered the fact that this is being done in early June, where there really isn’t a lot of certainty about what’s going to happen, and many businesses have been suffering for the past year,” he said. “Triple Crown creates some certainty in the early summer, and I believe there should be some economic benefit for businesses.”

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