Our View: Triple Crown deserves objective review
The Triple Crown Sports soap opera has taken yet another turn, with the youth baseball organization unwilling to go away quietly after Steamboat Springs City Council voted 4-3 last month to deny the renewal of a special events contract with the group that has been holding summer baseball tournaments here for nearly 40 years.
The council’s Jan. 19 reversal came a month after City Council voted 5-2 to approve a contract in which Triple Crown would pay the city $35,000 to $40,000 each year and accept a limit on teams participating. That contract would have been a turnaround from prior years in which the city paid Triple Crown a sponsorship fee as a tourism incentive.
The 4-3 vote to reverse course and sever ties with Triple Crown was largely driven by “nightmare stories” constituents shared with council about past behavior of athletes and their parents while in Steamboat for tournaments.
Last week, the city announced Triple Crown was taking alternate steps to play in Steamboat this spring and summer by completing a separate application process to use fields operated by the city and Steamboat Springs School District. Under this paradigm, Triple Crown would still need to qualify for a special events permit that requires city approval and abide by the same terms and conditions previously negotiated with the city in December. Those terms include Triple Crown paying the city $35,000 to $40,000 in annual field-use fees and limiting games to youth players and hosting no more than 70 teams.
As Steamboat Pilot & Today reported Jan. 19, “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.”
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So here we are, with several City Council members publicly stating they feel like the community will have been bamboozled if Triple Crown is allowed to play in Steamboat this year. City Manager Gary Suiter has ultimate say over whether Triple Crown can return and told council that the city has “no choice but to be fair and objective” in its review and decision.
“Our job is to treat everyone fairly and equitably. If someone applies for use of facilities, we treat them like everyone else,” Suiter said.
The question at this point is not whether Triple Crown is good for Steamboat but whether the organization has a legal right to play here by utilizing the same event-application processes available to other organizations. That’s a question Suiter, council and City Attorney Dan Foote may have to consider in reviewing any new Triple Crown application.
At issue: City Council opted to sever ties with Triple Crown Sports only to learn the group is taking alternate steps to hold its tournaments in Steamboat anyway.
Our View: City officials should be fair and equitable in evaluating the group’s new application and in crafting objective special events protocols.
• Logan Molen, publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Kevin Fisher, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.
Assuming Triple Crown meets those special event application protocols, we encourage council to follow Suiter’s advice and take emotion out of the equation.
A key concern for the city when evaluating Triple Crown’s applications should be what message we as a community will send to other event producers who might be considering Steamboat as a venue. Organizations willing to make the kind of investment in annual events often require rules and regulations that are clear, consistent, fair and applied equally across all applicants.
Smartly, council has scheduled a discussion in March to review how all special event permits are granted and to better understand the impacts on staff and facilities. As part of this discussion, we would encourage council to ensure city event policies contain standards that ensure event producers are not abusing our public facilities or community. But those standards should be objective, so that we, as a community, are not picking winners and losers based solely on subjective reasons.
A recent survey indicated 37% of local businesses did not want Triple Crown to return. Rightly or wrongly, Triple Crown has developed a reputation, as evidenced by the survey results and council’s subsequent change of heart. Yet, that same survey would seem to indicate that 63% of local businesses did not oppose Triple Crown’s return, presumably because the group would bring much needed revenue to businesses struggling to survive the pandemic.
If council doesn’t believe Triple Crown is a good fit, what might be ideal replacements to help our local businesses? What are the kinds of spring and summer events that draw visitors with disposable incomes to spend on lodging, dining, recreation and shopping?
Banishing Triple Crown may be a short-term win for some, but it also could present a long-term setback for others. Before we accelerate the canceling of additional events, council and the community should establish a long-term vision and strategy and then develop a transparent permitting structure that benefits all stakeholders.
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