Vail civic plan could be costly, especially to replace the town’s ice arena | VailDaily.com

Vail civic plan could be costly, especially to replace the town’s ice arena

Town could have guidelines for future development finished by November

The town of Vail's civic area includes Vail Public Library, Dobson Ice Arena, the Lionshead Village parking structure and town hall. Work continues on how to change that area.
Special to the Daily

By the numbers

The team working on the Vail civic area plan has some cost estimates for possible improvements to the area including Dobson Ice Arena, the Lionshead Village parking structure and Vail Town Hall. Here’s a look at a handful of high estimates:

$135 million: Replacing Dobson Ice Arena

$90 million: Building an events center and other uses on the town’s charter bus parking lot

$30 million: A new Town Hall

$18 million: Putting a retail/pedestrian area on the south side of the Lionshead Village parking structure

The entire report is available at www.EngageVail.com.

VAIL — It’s still early, but the team working on the Vail civic area plan has some ideas what residents might want, how much it might cost and how to pay for it.

The team working on the plan for the town Tuesday presented new information to the Vail Town Council. That new information was based on the latest public engagement sessions, as well as surveys residents completed using the EngageVail.com website.

The process, which began last year, will include more community input sessions, as well as at least six more review sessions with the Town Council. The end result will be a plan to guide future development on the roughly 10 acres of town-owned property that includes Dobson Ice Arena, the Vail Public Library, the Lionshead Village parking structure and the Town Hall campus. That plan could see final approval by early November.

The work done so far seems to show public support for a handful of projects.

Replacing Dobson

Surveys showed 49% in favor a complete replacement of Dobson Ice Arena. The idea for replacement of the existing 1970s facility includes a second sheet of ice.

Laurie Mullen is the chairwoman of the Friends of Dobson, a group that represents adult and youth hockey players and skaters. Mullen said that group is at least 1,000 strong. Mullen told council members there’s a strong need for a second ice sheet.

Kristi Scheidegger of the local hockey club said that group is growing. And, she added, the local club has had to turn teams away from tournaments because there isn’t enough time on the existing ice — the only full-time ice sheet in the valley — to accommodate all the teams that want to participate.

Those teams from out of town represent people who want to come to Vail to stay, eat and shop, Mullen said.

Bringing people to town to stay, eat and shop is also behind an idea for the current charter bus parking lot, between Dobson and the parking structure.

In all, 67% of those surveyed said the proposed amount of change — including some sort of events center — is “about right” for the area.

The idea calls for roughly 20,000 square feet of meeting space, plus breakout areas.

Vail voters in the early 2000s passed a lodging tax to create a conference center, but costs quickly outstripped available revenue. The tax was repealed and money already collected went into several community projects including upgrades to Ford Park.

Consultant Andrew Knudtsen said that while an events center would require constant spending for operations and maintenance, spending by those attending events would outstrip the costs.

Knudtsen said that by its fifth year of operation, a facility would still be losing about $1 million per year, but generating about $1.5 million in new tax revenue.

And, Knudtsen added, “There is a loss of business opportunity (in Vail) without a facility of this size.”

Knudtsen’s estimates are for a town-owned and town-operated facility. The numbers change if the town enters into a partnership with a private firm.

However the ideas pan out, just the Dobson and charter bus lot improvements will be expensive. Current estimates place a full replacement of Dobson as high as $135 million. An events center could cost as much as $90 million.

How to pay

Knudtsen and the planning team have been looking at various ways the town could pay for improvements. Options include everything from dedicated sales and lodging taxes to business and philanthropic partnerships to using the existing special district that has already paid for a number of improvements in and around Lionshead Village.

Council Member Jenn Bruno said she’d like to see if there’s a public desire to spend that kind of money on civic projects.

Fellow Council Member Greg Moffet said that if the town finds a partner, it has to find a way to eliminate some of that partner’s financial risk.

“Our track record is terrifying” in those joint projects, Moffet said.

Beyond the plans for facilities and ideas for financing, longtime resident Rick Sackbauer offered words of caution to the council:

“I didn’t hear anything about the Vail experience,” Sackbauer said. “We don’t have enough people (now) to deliver that Vail experience.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.


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