Smaller projects eyed to spruce up Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – The 2015 Vail and Beaver Creek World Alpine Ski Championships are jump-starting a conversation that has been ongoing for years – what to do with the $9.3 million conference center funds that Vail raised through a lodging and sales tax increase during 2002 through the end of 2005.
The tax was raised through a half-cent sales tax and 1.5 percent lodging tax for the purpose of increasing occupancy and overall economic activity in Vail, ideally through the use of a new conference center. Voters rejected the idea to build a conference center in November 2005, which also put a stop to the tax increases.
The town now has to find a way to spend the money while keeping the original intent in mind, and voters will have to approve the plans before anything can happen.
Vail resident and former Vail Councilman Kent Logan, Vail Economic Development Director Kelli McDonald, and Councilwomen Susie Tjossem and Kerry Donovan, met with various locals and resort development groups throughout the last three months to discuss ideas for putting the funds to good use.
“If there’s no good use at all, then we shouldn’t do it, but if we do think we have some pretty good uses, we should get it in place now so it’s completed by (the 2015 Championships),” Logan said.
Logan presented five smaller projects that add up to about $9.3 million to the Vail Town Council earlier this month – a remodel of the Vail Golf Course clubhouse, a remodel of the Vail Village Welcome Center that would include a community space, technology enhancements for signs and information services, an expansion and renovation at the Dobson Ice Arena and an expansion at Ford Park.
Logan said Vail doesn’t seem to be missing any one thing, but rather the town needs to update several smaller facilities.
“There are just some outdated physical assets that haven’t been brought up to speed,” Logan said. “We need to tie those loose ends together and present everything Vail has to offer in a world-class way.”
Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council chair Beth Slifer has been one of the most vocal about retrofitting the Dobson Arena in order to add spaces for health and wellness-related activities.
The Vail Town Council plans to discuss the conference center fund ideas again at its Tuesday afternoon work session. Tjossem said town staff will present various costs associated with each of the five ideas, including ongoing operating costs.
Another group of local business folks – architect Bill Pierce, Masters Gallery director Rayla Kundolf and Grappa Fine Wine and Spirits owner Jonathan Staufer – say Colorado Mountain College’s former facilities at the Vail Cascade Resort should be considered among the other ideas.
The facilities are sitting there vacant and include theater space, community rooms, dance and performance spaces, as well as office space.
“Our overall vision is we would take this facility and (remodel) it for those purposes again,” Pierce said. “To provide a center for the large number of cultural and arts program we have.”
Cultural and nonprofit groups have shown interest in using the space, particularly groups like the Bravo Vail Valley Music Festival, Vail International Dance Festival and the Vail Jazz Festival, to name a few, Kundolf said.
“The facility could be used by all these groups if it was up and running,” Kundolf said.
Pierce, Kundolf and Staufer are in agreement with some of Logan’s points, particularly changes at the Vail Golf Course clubhouse, but they believe the opportunity at the old Colorado Mountain College facility is too good to pass up.
“There’s this pool of money sitting there, and we as a community need to decide how to use it and use it wisely,” Staufer said. “We would like this idea to be a forefront idea simply because it makes so much economic sense.”
The renovation would give the community some grown-up stuff to do in the evenings, Kundolf said. It could be a place with events and performances that could get people to stay that extra night in town.
“It layers our community culturally, environmentally and economically,” Kundolf said.
Logan said there’s still time for other groups to come forward with their ideas. He said his group doesn’t consider some of the ideas, like the purchase and remodel of the former Colorado Mountain College building, to be practical because it’s not known what business interests would be served or whether the idea is affordable.
“This is by no means a final declaration,” Logan said. “If someone wants to come forward with something specific and practical, and why it makes good business sense, then we’ll listen.”
Tjossem said of all the projects out there, there are some the town simply can’t afford. If some projects, like the Colorado Mountain College space idea, could incorporate a public-private partnership in terms of funding, then they could be considered.
Kundolf said buying the old Colorado Mountain College space and renovating it would only use up about half of the conference center funds, though.
Kundolf said once a more detailed plan is put together showing how much it would actually cost, which she hopes the town of Vail will do, she’s confident the town will want to buy the facility.
“This is a community thing,” Kundolf said. “This is, I feel, the right thing for the community.”
All of the ideas presented have the community at heart, specifically the economic vitality of the community. The 2015 Championships, however, are giving town leaders all the more reason to speed up the conversation and get something on the ballot to voters by late winter or early spring 2011.
Logan hopes the community will vote on projects that emphasize the town’s assets and make them more accessible.
“Let’s complete the renaissance,” Logan said. “We ought to dress up the assets we have and bring them up to world-class standards. Nine million isn’t peanuts, but it’s not a whole lot of money, either. This could be the town’s version of an economic stimulus to get the town focused on something positive while looking ahead to the 50th anniversary and the 2015 Championships.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.