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City Council will consider using lodging tax reserves to expand ice arena

Use of lodging tax reserves to expand facility is being considered

The second sheet of ice would be covered by a roof and partially enclosed.
Courtesy Photo

— The Steamboat Springs City Council will soon consider spending some lodging tax dollars that haven’t been spoken for on an expansion project at the Howelsen Ice Arena.

The project would add a second sheet of covered ice at the arena, which currently is seeing more demand for ice time than can be accommodated.

The extra space could also be used as a training area for soccer, lacrosse and baseball players in the warmer months.



Proponents of the project say it will benefit youth sports, bring more visitors to Steamboat, give the public more time to skate on the ice and also generate more revenue for the city.

The $2.5 million project already has significant backing from private fundraisers.



Local philanthropists Michael and Sara Craig-Scheckman have pledged $1 million toward the effort.

In a statement read at a city council meeting on Tuesday night, the Craig-Schekmans said youth hockey has been a passion of theirs for years, and a second sheet of ice would allow the sport to grow and alleviate a situation where youths are often playing hockey late into the night.

Council members were supportive of the project when it was presented to them on Tuesday.

But many said the city cannot afford to spend money from its capital budget right now because it is “maxed out.”

Instead, some council members are eying the lodging tax reserves that have been accruing in recent years as a possible funding source.

The council has discretion to spend these reserves on an annual basis.

The reserves could reach $800,000 to $900,000 by 2017, according to early projections by city officials.

The rest of the lodging tax is currently being spent on local trail projects and improvements on Yampa Street per the approval of voters.

The use of the reserves does not require voter approval as long as the money is spent in accordance with the 1986 ballot language that created the tax. That means it must be spent on some sort of amenity aimed at attracting visitors to Steamboat.

The city has been asked to spend $750,000 on the ice arena expansion.

Some council members suggested the earliest they could see the expansion taking place is 2017 because of the city’s financial limitations.

The rest of the project’s cost would be covered by a potential grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and private fundraising.

Council President Walter Magill was ready Tuesday night to start allocating some of the lodging tax reserves toward the project.

“I dearly think this project is something that would help our community,” Magill said.

Before voting on the funding, the council decided it first wants to hear from Finance Director Kim Weber about her projections for the tax revenue.

The presentation on Jan. 19 will also give the public an opportunity to comment on the potential use of that tax revenue on the project.

The lodging tax revenue comes from a 1 percent tax charged to visitors on their nightly lodging rentals.

When the City Council in 2012 initiated a public process to determine how to spend the lodging tax in the future, nearly 40 suitors lined up with ideas for how to spend it ranging from adding more public restrooms to expanding the Yampa River Core Trail.

The ice arena expansion recently earned the endorsement of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.

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


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