Minturn voices concern with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, contemplates legal action
Council says club has not upheld agreements and is evasive in communications regarding $2.5M fitness center
Town of Minturn Councilmembers received no comment from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail on Wednesday regarding allegations of bylaw infractions and general disrespect from the club.
The town partnered with the club to create a fitness center in Minturn in 2014, contributing $1.25M toward the construction of the facility.
Minturn town attorney Mike Sawyer said the town’s partnership with the ski club includes a financing agreement and a set of bylaws.
“SSCV, in exchange for the town’s investment, agreed to cover the cost of the programming,” Sawyer said. “If they’re not adhering to the programming plan, and the board hasn’t allowed them, they’re in violation of the agreement.”
Councilmembers said that was indeed the case as the club is managing the facility without input from the town of Minturn, as originally agreed upon.
“Programming, hours of operation, unfortunately all of that stuff, those decisions were made by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail,” said Minturn Councilmember Terry Armistead.
John Hale, the club’s chief operating officer, did not offer a comment Thursday despite attempts by the Vail Daily to reach him by phone and email.
Councilmember Earl Bidez said after a positive negotiating experience with the club, he finds it hard to believe the state the relationship is in currently.
“The bylaws have not been followed,” Bidez said. “We have not been able to insert our authority as an equal partner to the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail organization in this facility.”
Sawyer said if the facility does not come into compliance with the programming plan, a court action may be required to force the club to manage the facility in accordance with the agreements.
“Or if they truly believe that they have the authority to simply do whatever they want, then there is no programming plan, and the facility should be locked up to everybody, and that includes all of their students, until SSCV comes to the table in an honest way and deals with the town in conformance with the agreements that we negotiated with them,” Sawyer said.
The council gave direction to town staff on Wednesday to put an action item on the next agenda which would present Ski & Snowboard Club Vail with Sawyer’s legal recommendations and possible remedies.
Upon the fitness center’s inception, a board was set up to govern the programming and operation of the facility, with equal representatives from the town of Minturn and the club. The board was set up to meet quarterly.
“We had to really demand board meetings up front,” said Bidez, who was on the board in its early days. “We were the ones who were having to go up front and say, OK, we’ve got to have our board meetings.”
In recent years, the quarterly meetings have not taken place.
“I think we just need to reassert that and be really active and aggressive as far as following our bylaws on (having regular meetings),” Bidez said.
Sawyer recommended the town start publicizing meetings with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and encouraging more public participation in fitness center board meetings.
“It’s clear that some sunshine needs to be shone in on this organization, and how it’s being run,” Sawyer said. “So that members of the public who are users of this facility feel empowered to show up, and not in isolation of apparently rude employees, and get their opinions just discarded, but rather have the support of their elected representatives at a meeting telling SSCV what needs to be done to meet the needs of our community.”
Councilmembers said communications from the club have been scant, and the council expressed frustration with Hale, the club’s incoming executive director.
Armistead said Hale was invited to attend the Minturn meeting and declined. The meeting was noticed on the agenda as “Minturn Fitness Center Review.”
“The management piece … is noticeably absent,” Armistead said. “Not one board member from SSCV is on this call.”
Armistead said she herself is on the fitness center board and hasn’t had her calls returned from Hale. Minturn Mayor John Widerman said there needs to be a more open line of communication.
“And by open line of communication, that doesn’t just mean calling me,” he said.
Widerman, who is not on the fitness center board, said he received a call from Hale, which is “not a clean substitute,” he said.
Armistead said she was disappointed to learn Hale would call Widerman and not her.
“When a CEO of a major nonprofit in town doesn’t follow up and reply to my email but rather calls the mayor to circumnavigate whatever conversation I thought we were having … I’m not happy with that,” Armistead. “In this day and age, it’s not a pretty look.”
Several Minturn locals also spoke, expressing frustration with the facility, telling stories of interactions with rude employees, and saying they didn’t feel welcome at the facility.
Lifelong resident Nella Trail said she has offered to close the gym as a volunteer. Sawyer said the club should take her up on the offer.
“This is a nonprofit organization, so of course volunteer participation is foreseen and would be encouraged,” he said.
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