Parking under Vail’s softball fields? |

Parking under Vail’s softball fields?

Kristen Anderson/Vail DailyDenver residents Luke, left, and Erin Aurich play a game of Frisbee Monday at Ford Park in Vail. Luke has been visiting Vail for more than 20 years and said Ford Park should remain as is.

VAIL, Colorado ” Mark Gordon envisions hundreds of cars parked surreptitiously under Vail’s biggest park as people play softball and soccer on fields above.

“I think that we need to discuss the possibility of parking at Ford Park,” Gordon said. “It’s well worth the discussion because all other large parking solutions are somewhere down the line, and we have to rely on other people solve it for us.”

A lack of parking has emerged as a major issue in Vail. Last winter, Vail’s public garages ” in Lionshead and Vail Village ” filled 48 times, forcing cars onto the frontage roads, which serve as overflow parking.

Town officials are looking for long-term solutions to the town’s parking crunch. About 400 spaces are needed right away to keep up with demand, and by 2025, the town will need 1,000 more spaces, officials say.

The Town Council will consider those long-term needs at a meeting Tuesday.

Three potential projects are seen as the big pieces to solve Vail’s long-term parking needs: Ever Vail in west Lionshead, where a partially public garage is proposed; the Lionshead parking structure, which could add hundreds of additional public spaces; and Ford Park.

Ford Park, just east of Vail Village, now has playing fields that are used for soccer, softball, rugby, lacrosse and other activities. It also has parking lots with about 200 spaces.

A Ford Park structure could cater to skiers, shoppers, concert attendees and ball players, Gordon said.

But some residents vehemently oppose any plan to build underground parking there.

“We spent the taxpayers’ money to have what they have in New York’s Central Park,” said Vail resident Joe Staufer. “That’s our Central Park. It should not be used for day-skier parking.”

The ski company should use its own land and money to build parking for skiers, Staufer said.

“Vail Resorts never in 45 years has provided parking for their customers,” he said. “And now, to use Ford Park, in my opinion, would be a crime.”

Construction of a parking structure would be very disruptive, Staufer said. And he wouldn’t want to see artificial turf at the playing fields, he added.

As many as 900 spaces could be built in a garage under Ford Park, and playing fields would be replaced on top with artificial turf, said Vail Public Works Director Greg Hall.

A study planned for next year will look at the feasibility for parking at Ford Park, as well as ways to pay for it, said Town Manager Stan Zemler.

In 1997, parking was deleted from a long-range plan for Ford Park after objections were raised “from a variety of sources,” said Assistant Town Manager Pam Brandmeyer.

“That wasn’t tenable at the time,” Brandmeyer said. “Now the climate may be different.”

Building parking at Ford Park might have merit, said Councilman Andy Daly.

“There’s a case to be made for it, but I haven’t heard enough about it to say I support it or don’t support it,” Daly said.

The promise of parking with the proposed $900 million Lionshead parking structure is “suspect” in light of the state of the economy, Daly said.

Gordon said he would expect contributions from Vail Resorts for a parking structure at Ford Park. In 2003, Vail Resorts made a pledge of $4.3 million to help the town with parking.

Vail Resorts declined comment for this story.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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