Efforts to fund a conference center continue in Vail | VailDaily.com

Efforts to fund a conference center continue in Vail

Geraldine Haldner

Following a brief presentation last week before the Vail Town Council and the discovery of several loose ends, a group of lodge managers working in concert with the ski company, return with a package information supporting a half-percent increase in sales taxes and a 1.5-percent increase in lodging taxes. The proposed increase in sales tax would exclude groceries and utilities.

Stan Cope, manager of the Lodge Tower, says his group has all its ducks in a row.

“We’ll be doing a very brief introduction, and then the consultants will present their work,” Cope says.

Representatives of Minneapolis-based CSL Inc. will present a study of who would use a conference center in Vail, at what time of the year and to what capacity.

Lodge managers and ski company representatives also plan to present a complete financial package for building and maintaining a conference center.

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Porter Wharton III, Vail Resorts’ senior vice president of public affairs, says the company supports the project, offering a six-acre property it owns on the Holy Cross Maintenance Site, on South Frontage Road.

The ski company currently uses the site for equipment maintenance and storage. The lot is one of five the ski company intends to redevelop during a $400 million redevelopment of Lionshead scheduled to go get underway next year. The conference center would be owned by the town of Vail.

The Holy Cross site came into focus 10 days ago, when a cost estimate of a center on the ski company’s two-acre North Day Lot came out too high, at $70 million.

Cope says moving the proposed conference center to the Holy Cross site, at the western end of Lionshead, allows for “much simpler construction” without excavation and a 250,000-space parking lot, saving about $24 million.

Plans for a conference center has been on Vail’s agenda since 1987, when voters resoundingly rejected the $16 million Congress Hall. A more recent ballot question was scratched when the cost boomed and programs ballooned out of control.

The $76 to $100 million Vail Center project – which included a conference facility, a learning center, a climbing wall, an ice rink and other community amenities on the Charter Bus Lot – died at the hands of Vail’s former council last year.

The estimated $2 million in additional proposed annual taxes would go towards paying off $46 in bonds. The tax increases would end once the center is paid off.

Today’s presentation will be part of the council’s evening meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Vail Municipal Building.

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 602 or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.

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