It’s called leadership |

It’s called leadership

Don Rogers

Sometimes, making a decision is more important than which decision. The conference center might be a case in point.

Holy Cross or “Hub” site? Either can be done well, and fairly for all concerned. Vail Resorts has presented a compelling argument for the dirt lot between the Lionshead parking structure and Dobson Ice Arena, but the current maintenance yard across the Frontage Road would work, too.

Vail’s flock of Chicken Little naysayers will keep squawking. Count on it. That’s the story with every other step of public progress in Vail, whether roundabouts, Ford Amphitheater, Dobson, the new community center, the Middle Creek affordable housing project. What the critics don’t kill they make stronger.

Tonight the Vail Town Council has the opportunty to choose the direction of the future conference center. It is about time. In this gap between election day and now, the folks who would kill the project have sought to make a grand canyon out of a crack, and both town and ski company representatives have done a good job of helping them, frankly.

But, lest anyone forget, the people did vote for the conference center last fall, albiet by a slim margin. The mandate is to build. Somewhere.

Despite revisionists’ claims, the voters had plenty of information before them to make their decision. The study on the viability of the project was reported fully and the report itself was public. The fact that the agreement between town and company about the Holy Cross land still had details to be worked out was common knowledge, as well as reported fully. That conference centers are not of themselves profit centers was fully reported. (Sigh, again, the value lies in the business that conference centers attract to their communities.)

And even the most vocal proponents acknowledged freely that the conference center bore risk.

What Vail didn’t learn until after the election was that Keystone’s conference center lost a million dollars each of two years nipped by recession and post-9/11. The Chicken Littles have made much of this, paying no attention whatsoever to the corresponding fact that even so, the Keystone center attracted about 30 times that amount in business for the lodging and retail community. Maybe it’s a little complicated to think this way, but consider how much worse Keystone would suffer without the center.

Vail’s annual community survey suggests the town’s “business community vitality” is residents’ No. 1 concern. Vail’s government can’t wave a wand and make store leases cheaper – this is a capitalistic society, after all – but the council tonight can do something perhaps more effective in putting the conference center on track.

The Hub site offers a good solution for Vail’s peak day parking difficulties, in addition. But more important is making a decision. D.R.

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