Vail hospital plans to double in size
VAIL – When Dr. Jack Eck started working at the Vail clinic in 1971, he was one of just three doctors there. The clinic – at the site of today’s hospital and medical center – mostly cared for ski injuries and the few locals who lived here then, he said.”We thought Lionshead was the end of world,” he said. “It’s not.”As Eagle County’s population has exploded over the last few decades, the Vail Valley Medical Center has kept adding on to its Vail building. And it has also built clinics downvalley as more people have moved there. The medical staff has grown from three doctors to 172.Now, the medical center is planning another major expansion for the Vail campus – perhaps its last – that would almost double its size over the next decade.”We’re just bursting at the seams,” said Eck, who is a board member for the medical center.Under the plan that’s being considered, two big additions would be built on the east and west ends of the Vail campus. The main entrance would be moved to the South Frontage Road.Stan Anderson, senior vice president of administrative services, said the hospital needs to expand as more people seek care.
“We see the needs on the horizon,” he said.Officials are looking to break ground on the first phase of the project between 18 months and two years from now, Anderson said.The first phase is a new 50,000-square-foot building that would be on the west end of the campus, beside Dobson Arena, where there’s a parking lot now. That building may house orthopedic clinics, physical therapy clinics and research labs, and would free up space in the current complex, Anderson said. The expansion would put parking underground.The second phase would raze part of the eastern end of the medical center and add a new 70,000-square-foot wing. It could have an emergency room, primary care, imaging center and administration, Anderson said. That phase would put the main entrance for the hospital on the frontage road.”We’re looking at the South Frontage Road to provide a more marquee entrance for the hospital,” Anderson said.That addition would also put a helicopter pad on the complex. The helicopter pad is now across the frontage road beside the Vail Municipal Building.The complex is now 175,000 square feet, and the new additions would add about 130,000 square feet and double the current parking.The total cost of the expansions would be between $70 million and $90 million, Anderson said. The hospital will use money already in the bank as well as investments from physicians and donations to raise the money, he said.The original hospital was built in the late ’60s, and there were major expansions in 1979, 1987 and 2002.
Anderson said the planned expansion will probably be the last major expansion at the Vail campus.”I think physically in Vail that will be it,” he said.The plan still needs to be approved by the medical center’s board of directors. Then, the town of Vail has to approve the plan.With Eagle County’s population poised to double over the next few decades, the medical center is trying to move services where demand will be, Anderson said. The hospital is partnering with Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs on a medical complex at Eagle Ranch. There, an office building is already under construction, and the complex will eventually include a hospital. Offices of Colorado Mountain Medical doctors recently moved from the Vail campus to Edwards, mirroring the move of many families downvalley, Anderson said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.