Conference center supporters rally
VAIL ” About a hundred supporters of the proposed Vail conference center gathered Tuesday morning at the site where it would be built to kick off their campaign.
Vail voters will go to the polls Nov. 8 to weigh in on the proposed $64.8 million center.
Mayor Rod Slifer told supporters that the conference center is “good for the economy, employment and Vail.”
Supporters cheered and waved signs as others spoke at a podium. A group called Citizens for Vail’s Future organized the rally at the site of the proposed center, between Dobson Arena and the Lionshead parking garage.
Group co-chair Rob LeVine cited groups that are meeting in other places because Vail doesn’t have the conference space to accommodate them. He said the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners was now meeting in Ontario.
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“They would rather be in Vail,” he said.
Pam Stenmark of the Evergreen Lodge said the conference center would increase wages and tips, thereby improving guest services, both on the front lines and in management.
On Vail’s election day Nov. 8, voters will be consider a lodging tax increase to help fund construction and operation of the conference center. In 2002, voters approved a tax increase that was later determined to be insufficient to build and operate the conference center. The vote therefore, is essentially a do-or-die vote on the center.
A consultant’s 2004 study said the conference center will generate $33 million a year for the town of Vail and support 329 jobs. But opponents say those numbers are based on flawed data.
Opponents of the center say Vail residents are on the hook for any debt the center generates, and conference center space around the country has increased while demand has subsided.
Sonny Kerstiens of Vail, who works at the Vail Marriott, said he came to the rally because the conference center is something the town really needs, especially in the off-season.
“Turning away groups in the off-season when we’re dead is something that’s hard to do,” he said.
Rally attendee Sean LaFaver, who works at the Lodge at Vail, said although his hotel has space for small conferences, it’s not enough for big groups.
“It’s not enough to accommodate the monster conferences that the conference center could handle,” he said.
Council members Slifer, Kent Logan and Greg Moffet attended the rally, as did Town Council candidates Ludwig Kurz, Robert Aikens and Kristy Slack.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or email@example.com.