Vail mulls the future of recreation
Another sheet of ice, a gymnasium and even a swimming pool are on the radar screen for expanding winter recreation in Vail.
A lack of cash, however, could hobble any construction.
Vail Town Council members appear confident there are plenty of ways for guests and residents to get exercise during the summer. But they also say there’s not much else for folks and their kids to do in the winter if they’re not interested in spending every waking moment on the world-class ski mountain towering above town.
“We’ve taken good care of the summer. It’s the winter we need alternative options for people,” says Town Councilman Dick Cleveland.
With many of Vail’s recreation facilities either aging or temporary –such as the skatepark on the top deck of the Lionshead parking garage and the inflatable Ice Dome on the Vail Golf Course – the Town Council has begun examining how much the town should spend on upgrades, adding to the money spent on maintenance and operations by the Vail Recreation District.
“We are in the recreation business. It’s our lifeblood,” says Town Councilman Chuck Ogilby.
The most ambitious project being discussed is an indoor recreation center, though both funding and land are scarce. A town-owned piece of land near the Lionshead garage and Dobson Ice Arena has been considered a potential location – until the Town Council decided Tuesday, instead, to build a $40 million conference center there.
“We have no place for aging residents,” says Town Councilman Greg Moffet.
Ogilby, however, says there still may be room in the Lionshead garage area for a recreation center.
“Future councils may build a recreation center over Interstate 70,” he says.
The entire Vail Town Council agrees building a permanent skatepark somewhere in either Vail Village or Lionshead should be a top priority.
“It’s ludicrous that every community in Summit County has been able to build a permanent skatepark, and we haven’t,” Cleveland says.
Another sheet of ice?
Council members appear to be mixed on the long-debated question of whether Vail needs another ice rink to handle overflow from the often-busy Dobson Arena.
“Another sheet of ice would get used. A lot of men and women would play hockey were it not perceived to be incredibly inconvenient,” says Moffet.
“I would start to play hockey if there was the right kind of league.”
The Vail Town Council, meanwhile, has decided to fund operations for the controversial Ice Dome next winter, which costs approximately $190,000 to reconstruct, operate and pull down each year.
“It certainly addresses some of the issues we’ve been struggling with, which is to free up Dobson for special events,” says Cleveland. “But $190,000 is not acceptable. That’s not acceptable for more than another year.”
Doubling Dobson’s capacity?
In other efforts, the town is attempting to double the capacity of Dobson Ice Arena to approximately 3,000 people. That expansion depends more on fire and building codes than any proposed renovations.
Town Councilwoman Diana Donovan says the town should work hard to attract sports tournaments during the spring and summer seasons, as they could generate revenue for the town. She says she wonders if Vail wants to be a “tournament headquarters.”
“We have to figure out which pieces of recreation make the biggest contribution,” Donovan says.
Councilman Bill Jewitt, meanwhile, says the town should spend money on the golf course because it could generate a lot of revenue in Vail. The people who use the golf course, he says, “stay in expensive hotels and eat expensive dinners.”
“I really think the golf course needs to be a primary area of emphasis,” Jewitt says. “The course has not lived up to the standards set for recreation.”
How “bout a swimming pool?
Town Councilman Rod Slifer, meanwhile, says Vail needs an indoor swimming pool, an issue on which his fellow council members don’t offer strong support.
“That’s one thing we lack as a resort is public swimming facility,” Slifer says.
Most of the council agrees, however, with Slifer’s contention that recreation facilities must cater to both residents and visitors.
“We should focus on facilities that accommodate both guest and residents, and when I say residents I mean we shouldn’t focus on just kids,” he said.
Vail leaders leery of recreational mergers
The idea of merging Eagle County’s various recreation districts has made Vail leaders skeptical. They argue the town should have its own gymnasium, a skatepark and a pool, among other facilities, at least according to what they say.
Consolidating the county’s recreation districts has been a major topic of debate in recent months. Under such an organization, different types of recreation facilities would potentially be housed in different towns and neighborhoods. For example, if a swimming pool is built in Edwards, there would be no need for Vail to build one, too.
Vail Town Councilman Chuck Ogilby, however, says it’s critical for Vail to continue providing a wide variety of recreation facilities, instead of relying on other towns within the county.
“We’re seeing the heart and soul leaving this community in bits and pieces,” Ogilby says. “Every piece that leaves us leaves us a bit short. We’ve got to put the brakes on.”
Councilman Greg Moffet says while some consolidation might be wise, the town shouldn’t get carried away expecting its needs to be met by downvalley facilities.
“There are some things that ought to be downvalley, but what we ought not to give away our resources,” he says.
Vail Mayor Ludwig Kurz, however, says the town must at least consider a countywide recreational merger.
“We do need to look at consolidation and dispersal throughout the valley,” Kurz says. “Some facilities are better suited to different areas.”
Vail Councilman Bill Jewitt, meanwhile, says the entire valley would benefit from not having the same types of recreation facilities in every town.
“Obviously, a duplication of efforts is not a place we need to go,” Jewitt says.
Then there’s Vail Councilwoman Diana Donovan, who says she is wary of a merger because Vail’s economy is more dependent on recreation than downvalley communities.
“We have a different role in recreation than the rest of the valley,” Donovan says.
Moffet, meanwhile, compares Vail’s recreation facilities to the town’s local bus system. Vail runs its own bus system because the county transit agency would not be able to meet the town’s transportation needs, he says. Vail is the valley’s “central business district,” and its business is recreation, he says.
“We are a recreation-based economy,” he says.
“We are different than Edwards in what we require for recreation,” Jewitt says.
Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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