Tour of Vail athletic facilities shows ‘opportunities’ despite crowding, age |

Tour of Vail athletic facilities shows ‘opportunities’ despite crowding, age

The Vail Town Council and representatives from Vail Recreation District tour recreation district facilities on Tuesday, June 19, at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. The building is getting towards the end of its life expectancy.
Chris Dillmann |

How this works

In Vail, the town government owns virtually all of the town’s recreation facilities. Those facilities are managed and operated by the Vail Recreation District. User fees and a small property tax pay for the operating expenses on those facilities, as well as some improvements.

This story has been corrected to note that all 18 holes are open at the Vail Golf Club. There are temporary greens on holes where the permanent greens have been damaged. There are also steep discounts on fees right now.

Look around Ford Park for the next couple of weeks and you’ll see fields buzzing with lacrosse teams. This made for a good time to take a tour of all the town’s recreation facilities.

The Vail Town Council and the board and staff of the Vail Recreation District spent the morning of Tuesday, June 19, touring those facilities, from the district’s child care and activity center to the Vail Golf Club.

The tour was a chance for district officials to show off a bit.

“I’d challenge you to find another community of 4,000 full-time residents with the kind of (programs and facilities) we have here,” Vail Recreation District Director Mike Ortiz told the group.

Programs at the former Imagination Station in the Lionshead Village parking structure still focus on kids, with a licensed day care and activities ranging from toys and activities to virtual reality games. But, Ortiz said, the center is also hosting adult activities including chocolate-making and wine tasting.

The town’s gymnastics center has young athletes working throughout the year, and, the town’s golf course clubhouse and Nordic center still has that new-facility smell — all but seven greens are open right now due to winter damage. The rest of the course is open for play with temporary greens in place.

An aging arena

But on the east end of the Lionshead Village parking structure is Dobson Ice Arena. The plaque near the front doors dates the structure to 1979. With a 50-year service life, that puts the structure about a decade from the end of its useful life.

Ortiz told the touring council members that Dobson is ripe for a significant re-do.

“I see this (site) as a Madison Square Garden,” Ortiz said.

That would be expensive, of course. But both Dobson and the Vail Public Library are in a special improvement district for the Lionshead Village area. That district was created to help renovate the resort village, and uses a system called tax increment financing to pay for improvements. The idea is that the district keeps the increased property tax revenue from new and improved areas. Some of that money is now being used to pay for part of a new parking structure at Red Sandstone Elementary School.

The district can issue bonds to pay for public improvements based on revenue from those private improvements.

That district expires in 2030, but money from it could be used to help finance improvements at the ice arena and library.

The ice arena and other town-owned facilities in the town’s civic core are the subject of a planning process that’s just beginning. The council will see the first presentation on the subject at its July 3 meeting.

Space for stuff needed

Elsewhere in town, council members got a close look at the tennis center at Ford Park, as well as the athletic fields on the south side of Gore Creek from the park.

Ortiz said the restrooms at the athletic fields need to be replaced — since the flush toilets are augmented by a number of portable toilets during the tournament.

But, Ortiz said, one of the district’s biggest issue is storage. The entire district needs extra storage, but the need is most acute at the tennis center and the golf club.

On a quick tour of the golf course maintenance building — first built in the early 1970s out of not much more than construction scrap — Ortiz was asked just how much stuff the district puts into that limited space.

If the maintenance building is a five-pound bag, Ortiz half-jokingly said, then the district is putting “about 25 pounds” of stuff into it.

With no new land available, Ortiz and council members said the town-owned facilities can, and should, be used more efficiently.

During and after the tour, council members said they saw opportunities for more efficient use of the town’s facilities.

Council member Kim Langmaid said the area including the ice arena has a lot of potential. A life-long resident of Vail, Langmaid said people in town have long looked at ways for a way to better connect Vail Village and Lionshead Village. A Dobson re-do that allows bigger events and, perhaps, a second ice sheet, could be the cornerstone of such an effort.

Council member Jenn Bruno noted that the tour was a good opportunity to see the facilities all at once. It was a good chance to see “under utilized” areas, she said.

Most of the Vail Recreation District Board came along on the tour, of course. Before the bus left the Vail Municipal Building, board member Kim Newbury Rediker said the morning’s work gives the Town Council a chance to see the facilities in use.

“They can see the conditions and make decisions based on that,” she said. “Some of these buildings are from the 1970s and need major updates.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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