Vail Council votes for fresh start for Seibert Circle site
VAIL – Pete Seibert may be a slightly more contented spirit today. The Vail Village plaza bearing his name may have a new look in the next year or so.A sharply divided Vail Town Council Tuesday voted 4-3 to pursue a plan to replace a large, but fairly recent, art installation in Seibert Circle at the top of Bridge Street. The council also put the town’s Art in Public Places board under a tight deadline of April to provide at least a preliminary design of what should replace the art at the plaza now.The split on the council was between those who believed that this year’s streetscape work provided an opportunity to do something different on the plaza, and those who thought the price tag of a fresh start was simply too high. Mayor Rod Slifer and council members Kent Logan, Diana Donovan and Farrow Hitt voted in the majority. Council members Greg Moffet, Kim Ruotolo and Dick Cleveland voted no.”I’m hearing from people that we just did this a few years ago, it’s ridiculous to be spending $1 million to take it out,” Ruotolo said.”The sticker shock is almost overwhelming,” Moffet said. “I can’t see it as a responsible use of public money to take 7-year-old art and chuck it.”In the end, though, the idea to start over at Seibert Circle was carried by a couple of thoughts, that the time to do something is now, and that Seibert himself never cared for what’s there now.
What’s at the plaza now is a series of sculptures by artist Jesus Morales. That piece, finished in 1998 at a cost of more than $700,000, has been controversial from the start, and those who don’t like the pieces voiced their opinions Tuesday.At an open house before the council meeting, most opinions favored at least some sort of action at the plaza.”I haven’t liked the Morales piece since it was done, and I don’t like it now,” Christiania Lodge owner Paul Johnston said. “It’s time for a change.”Town art board members have proposed a change to a “four season” plaza that includes fire and water as elements in the plaza, as well as, perhaps, a new piece of public art.”If the water and fire are done right, I wonder why you need anything else,” said Ron Riley, who owns property at the top of Bridge Street. “Art can get controversial.”Mostly, though, those arguing for a fresh start said a more natural look on the plaza would be what Seibert himself would want.
“He would want something different,” said Pete Seibert Jr. But, he added, whatever is done at the plaza “has to fit with the alpine village that’s there.”While the Morales sculpture is just a few years old, Seibert said that the time to act is this year, when upper Bridge Street is torn up for streetscape work.That was Logan’s primary argument.”I’ve been persuaded we ought to do the dirty work now,” Logan said. And, while the potential price tag is high, Logan said the pace of redevelopment in Vail, including the “Front Door” project near the Vista Bahn, justifies the expense.”It’s a lot of money,” Donovan said. “But when did Vail ever do a project that wasn’t absurdly expensive?” But, she added, the Morales piece doesn’t really work on the plaza, and it’s time for something new.That argument was what finally swayed Hitt, who entered the meeting on the fence between the cost and the need to act.
“I heard proof that Seibert Circle isn’t working the way it is now,” he said. “And now’s the time to do it.”It’ll be interesting to see if we can work under the gun,” he added. “But (the art board) has been working on it. They’re not starting from nothing.”Staff writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at email@example.com, or 949-0555, extension 613.Vail, Colorado