Can Vail’s Dobson be more than ice rink? |

Can Vail’s Dobson be more than ice rink?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR Dobson Arena DT 1-28-09

VAIL, Colorado ” What if Vail’s Dobson Arena could be more than just an ice rink ” maybe even to bring more visitors to town year-round?

It’s a question Vail town leaders are considering as they look for ways to spend $9.7 million in funds from a failed conference center project.

The money was collected from a lodging fee and a sales tax approved by voters to build a conference center intended to bring visitors to town year-round. The town went back to voters after it became clear that more money would be needed, and residents did not reapprove the taxes.

Now, the town is looking for ways to spend that money that would fill Vail’s hotels in the off-season and get “heads in beds.” Expanding the 30-year-old ice arena, which is in need of nearly $1.3 million in improvements, including a new roof, might be one way to do that.

Suggestions for Dobson include adding another ice rink so that both skating and special events could run at the same time, and expanding the facilities to include conference space.

Right now Dobson is mostly used by the town’s hockey leagues and skating clubs.

The idea, discussed several years ago, was to expand Dobson, the library across the street and the Lionshead parking structure to create a “community complex,” said Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland.

“(Dobson Arena) is old,” he said. “It’s time for a new roof, and we thought maybe before we did a new roof, we should look into expansion options.”

Councilman Farrow Hitt said that Dobson Arena renovation was dropped when it looked like a project was in the works to rebuild the Lionshead parking structure into hotels, condos, shops, more parking and a conference center. However, the project is stalled pending approval from Vail Resorts, which holds a deed restriction on the garage.

“Dobson got put on a back burner,” Hitt said. “Now it might be time to look at that again.”

Some community members have also proposed spending the conference center funds on creating a medical education program, which would bring doctors, nurses and others into town year-round.

The town and Vail Valley Medical Center would partner with a major medical brand, such as a university or well-known clinic, to bring the medical conferences and classes to Vail, said former town councilman and Vail resident Greg Moffet.

“There’s a huge demand, because doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners are all required to take continuing education,” said Moffet. “So you might take a medical brand, such as MD Anderson or the Mayo Clinic, combine it with an education program, and run it 10 months a year. Suddenly you start filling hotel rooms.”

The idea definitely meets the “getting heads in beds” requirement, said some local lodge proprietors.

“We’re considering anything and everything at this point, but I’m definitely behind (the medical programs),” said Montaneros Lodge General Manager Keith Odza, chairman of the Vail Valley Partnership Lodging Committee.

Hitt said it’s possible that expanding Dobson Arena could tie into the medical programming.

“We could make Dobson bigger and better and add some rooms. It’s definitely a potential spot to do something viable,” he said.

Dobson Arena was dedicated as an ice skating rink and will always have an ice arena, he added.

However, Moffet, who is part of a committee helping the town explore options for the funds, said that using the money on Dobson Arena is a “tough sell.”

The nearly $10 million in funds isn’t enough to purchase or build anything in town, and it definitely isn’t enough to rebuild or expand the arena, he said.

“If you’ve got enough money to fix Dobson, you’ve got enough money to build a conference center,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or

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