Small crowd likes new drawings |

Small crowd likes new drawings

Scott N. Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyFrank Johnson, right, points out the different exterior options for a new conference center in Vail on Friday at the Vail library.

VAIL – Pam Stenmark felt a lot better about the prospects of a Vail conference center after seeing the latest drawings.The sketches, produced by Fentress Bradburn Architects of Denver, are significantly different from the first set of sketches shown to the public. The old sketches had their fans but also drew widespread criticism, including comments that the structure looked like a mushroom, or a facility more suited for Smurfs or the denizens of Bedrock. If the new drawings still have a cartoon theme, it would be more Jetsons than Flintstones.”This is a really positive step in the design process,” said Stenmark, general manager of the Evergreen Hotel.

Stenmark has long supported the center, but as boss of what will be the closest hotel to the center between the Lionshead parking garage and Dobson Ice Arena, she said the new design makes her a lot more comfortable than the first one.”I’m liking this better every day,” she said at a town meeting Friday.The handful of business people at the meeting meant to discuss what’s new with the center all voiced support for the center. But Frank Johnson, director of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau, acknowledged a number of business people are still worried a conference center might hurt their sales.The main worry, Johnson said, is that convention banquets will lure business away from Vail restaurants. “We need to communicate that one banquet during a four-day event isn’t a big deal,” Johnson said.

While the conference center has drawn interest primarily from Vail residents and business owners, a couple of other residents also came to listen to Friday’s presentation.”I’m so excited about this,” Avon Town Councilwoman Amy Phillips said. “The building is so beautiful.”Phillips was in the event planning business for more than 20 years, including a stint at what’s now the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa. During the meeting, she asked Vail town planner Russell Forrest several pointed questions about the layout and capacity of the conference center. Later, she said she liked the answers she heard.While Phillips lives in Avon these days, she said the whole eastern part of the valley would profit from a conference center in Vail.”We’ll get an incremental benefit,” she said. “But it will affect us.”

Another non-Vail business owner also said he’d feel the effects.”I think it’s necessary,” said Tom Backhus, who runs 4Eagle Ranch north of Wolcott. “We’re all group business, and this is essential to our future.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or, Colorado

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