What’s next for Howelsen Hill? City in wait-and-see mode | SteamboatToday.com

What’s next for Howelsen Hill? City in wait-and-see mode

Fireworks explode over Howelsen Hill during the 2014 Winter Carnival.
Scott Franz

— As community members prepare to usher in another weekend of fun, fireworks and ski jumping through fiery hoops later this month at Howelsen Hill, questions are still swirling around the park’s future.

Geotechnical engineers armed with piezometers are monitoring how the landslide-prone hill is shifting.

Elected officials are trying to figure out how to pay for a long list of capital needs on the hill.

And, a group of potential suitors who might be interested in taking over operations from the city are now analyzing dozens and dozens of pages of material, outlining everything from recent workers compensation claims on the hill to a study relating aspen tree health to the ski area’s financial performance.

“It’s a landmark in the community, and right now, we are in a wait-and-see mode with the soil study and the request for proposals and with the City Council and how they want to proceed in the future,” Steamboat Springs Parks and Community Services Director John Overstreet said Thursday.

The four groups that have expressed interest in possibly bidding for the chance to operate the Howelsen Hill ski area have until March 7 to submit proposals.

The potentially interested parties include Steamboat Ski Area, the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Torsell and Sons LLC and Cedarhouse Partners, a real estate development firm that has an office in Steamboat.

City officials have just answered a long list of questions the potential bidders had about the historic ski hill.

Questions ranged from an inventory of all the equipment that serves the ski area to what deferred maintenance obligations the city is currently prepared to fund.

City contracts analyst Shelly St. Pierre said she has never seen the city send out a request for proposals as complex and unique as the one seeking bidders for Howelsen operations.

“The size of the facility and the partnership with the Winter Sports Club makes it unique, and just the fact that it is a historical piece of Steamboat,” she said. “It’s definitely not your typical request for proposals. There’s going to be a lot of evaluation on this.”

Based on the questions being asked, Overstreet thinks there is some interest, but it’s too early to tell whether any of the interested parties will end up submitting proposals.

In the advertisement seeking proposals, city officials say they want a “turn-key solution that will maximize revenues and minimize expenses.”

Asked to react to the initial interest to the request for proposals, City Council President Walter Magill speculated about why there weren’t more potential bidders from outside Routt County.

“Do I wish there were more people? Three out of the four groups are local to Routt County, so I think other people might have been scared off on trying to run a small ski area that we are showing loses revenue every year,” Magill said.

City officials expect to know more about the hill’s future this summer, when they begin receiving more results from the comprehensive soils study currently underway.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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