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Vail rec to choose leaders

Vail Daily file photoThe Vail Golf Course is always at the center of any Vail Recreation District board of directors election. Voters in the district go to the polls Tuesday
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VAIL – Four candidates are running for three open spots on the Vail Recreation District board of directors. The candidates are:

• John Donovan, who lives in East Vail and works at Los Amigos.

• Joe Hanlon, an incumbent who lives in the Sandstone area and is self-employed.



• Rick Sackbauer, an incumbent who lives in the Highland Meadows area and works for Vail Resorts Development Co.

• Ken Wilson, an incumbent who lives in the Potato Patch area and is self-employed as a real estate broker.



Voters will cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Vail Municipal Building, 75 South Frontage Road. The newly-elected members will join board of directors Jeff Wiles and Michelle Hall, whose terms run to May 2012. A chairperson and secretary treasurer will be elected from among the board of directors and each will serve a two-year post.

The rec district, a special district that operates separately from the town of Vail, runs programs at the Vail Golf Club, the Ford Park Tennis Center, Dobson Ice Arena, Vail Gymnastics Center, Vail Nature Center and Vail Nordic Center. In addition, it runs intramural sports leagues and children’s camps.

Joe Hanlon: After serving on the board for one term and holding the position of chairman, I feel confident that I can continue to bring experience, ideas and solutions to the table in order to meet the challenges ahead and seize the opportunities we have in the pipeline.



Rick Sackbauer: I have a lifelong passion for community service. That desire is even stronger today than when I first decided to run. I believe my enthusiasm, combined with my experience and expertise, makes me the right choice to continue serving our community.

John Donovan: Vail is world renowned for its skiing, dining and shopping. By serving on the board, I hope my ideas can add VRD’s assets to Vail’s list of world-class attributes.

Ken Wilson: I’m running for the board again because I have a passion for recreation and this is a way I can contribute to my community. I enjoy working with my fellow board members and the Vail Recreation District staff. The Vail Recreation District is a small organization where your ideas can be implemented and you can see the results.

Joe Hanlon: To address the challenge of the projected budget shortfall (due to reduced property valuations) we need look at all programming options, pursue additional participatory sports events and develop potential strategic partnerships in order to eliminate a forecasted deficit.

The next two major issues are whether to repair or replace the Nordic center/golf clubhouse and the implementation of a Ford Park master plan. Both of these issues require intensive community involvement, townwide participation, discussions and commitment. I will continue to work on behalf of the VRD to facilitate a harmonious synergy with the town of Vail, residents and taxpayers in order to make enhancements to the community while being fiscally responsible.

Rick Sackbauer: Our current economic climate provides both challenges and unique windows of opportunity for the Vail Recreation District. We must take the opportunity to accomplish the following four items:

• More stringent financial planning in the face of lower property tax assessments.

• Design of a multi-purpose facility at the Vail golf course.

• Even more “heads in beds” philosophy – spring, summer and fall.

• Implementation of the pace of play plan.

We’ll have to challenge our talented staff and consultants to continue to provide us with strategic information so we can consult with our constituents and make good decisions.

John Donovan: Our facilities must meet and then exceed not just locals’ but also our visitors’ expectations. In these challenging economic times, it will take inventive and innovative solutions to keep our VRD assets maintained to world class levels. I am confident I can bring a youthful and new perspective to the board. It is also important to have a committed staff who create an atmosphere that ensures a positive experience resulting in a desire to return. I hope to create that atmosphere of pride as a serving board member.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must entice a diverse customer base. We need to ensure that both 64-year-olds and 4-year-olds want to return when their ages are reversed.

Ken Wilson: The top challenge facing the VRD is definitely the aging facilities and how we’re going to replace them. The golf clubhouse is in dire need of replacing, and we need to come up with a plan on how to replace this facility. We are currently working with the town of Vail and the new “Vail 360” group to explore ideas for making the clubhouse site a true “multi-purpose” facility.

The second biggest challenge will be a reduction in funding from the mill levy due to a reduction in property values during the next county assessment. We project to receive $375,000 less, so we’ll have to run a very tight budget. The staff and our financial adviser are already working on ways to do the same level of programming with less money. I would like to see us have the same level of programming and make the necessary cuts to our capital budget.

The third biggest challenge will be planning for the future, and how it relates to the different user groups. We have a very demanding core of local users, which is how it should be. Many people live in Vail for the recreational opportunities that we offer. But we also have a very important user group with our visitors. They come to Vail to recreate. So it’s always a challenge to balance those groups in our programming and our facility usage.

Joe Hanlon: I have spent a lot of time and effort educating myself in understanding where we came from, where we are today, and where we want to be. As current chairman, I have been intricately involved in the progress we have made over the past four years, which includes negotiating new leases on all recreational venues with the town of Vail, installing a new irrigation system at the Vail Golf Course, building a $1 million reserve fund from scratch and repairing strained relations with the town of Vail in order to create an environment for accomplishment.

Rick Sackbauer: As a current board member, I’m very proud to say we’ve achieved:

• Developing the Facilities Master Plan, which became the basis for the lease with the town of Vail;

• Pushing forward with a joint venture studies between with Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and town of Vail which resulted in a completely new irrigation system for the Vail golf course;

• Creating a golf course master plan which became the basis for the No. 3 tee renovation and the proposed No. 7 tee replacement;

• Developing the pace of play plan.

John Donovan: I think the current board has done a fine job especially in regards to the irrigation system at the Vail Golf Course as well as the youth soccer tournaments. However, I disagreed with the rate increase at the Vail Golf Course, which equally affects Vail locals the same as individuals from the Front Range as well as outside of Colorado. I believe year around locals who play golf religiously should get consideration similar to merchant ski passes.

Ken Wilson: As an incumbent, I am most proud of the new relationship the Vail Recreation District has with the town of Vail. For various reasons, the two boards (Vail Recreation District and Town Council) did not see “eye to eye” for many years, and there was a total lack of cooperation and trust between the two. That makes it difficult, because the rec district is really in a tenant/landlord position with the town.

We were able to successfully negotiate new long-term leases, and truly begin an era of cooperation. Through the new leases, we now have established each entity’s responsibility for maintaining the facilities owned by the town of Vail and operated by the Vail Recreation District. Through this new relationship, a $2.6 million irrigation system was installed at the Vail Golf Course, with each of us paying half.

Joe Hanlon: The economic changes of the past two years have affected every division of the Vail Recreation District. Our staff has done a fantastic job of managing budgets, cutting costs and encouraging participation in order to meet the budget expectations without losing any programming. Going forward, we need to identify, address and eliminate the budget shortfall so that we can continue to have no loss of programming and services.

Rick Sackbauer: Just as individuals and families have had to adapt to changes in the economy, the VRD has also had to tighten the proverbial belt and figure out how to do more with less. Fortunately, thanks to some long-term planning, we’ve also been able to weather these economic changes relatively well.

We established a minimum amount of funds we had to always have on hand and wisely and conservatively spent what was left on a backlog of issues, some dealing with meeting the needs of our amazing staff; others on capital projects. We found partners, made commitments and adhered to them. Going forward we must make sure we provide “extraordinary recreation.” If we can’t commit to that, then we’d better step back and re-evaluate.

John Donovan: Personally, I have seen very little effect on the VRD in the past two years from the economic upheaval. We must continue to present a consistent level of service while instituting a prudent economic policy until we confidently emerge for these uncertain times. I believe the district needs to maintain an excellent service record to those all ready involved in rec district activities as well as incorporate new and young users into Vail Recreation District facilities and activities.

Ken Wilson: On the contrary, the past two years has been a “boom time” for the Vail Recreation District. It’s the next two to four years that will be tough. Due to the higher valuations and subsequent tax collections, the rec district has seen an increase in the amount of money it has to run programs and maintain facilities. As mentioned above, those days are coming to an end and we will have to operate on a leaner budget. During the past two years we were able to complete many necessary capital projects and increase our programming.

Joe Hanlon: The “Vail 360” plan has recommended some exciting opportunities for the entire Vail community. Once decisions have been finalized regarding the structures and venues, the VRD has the experience and staff in place to implement these programs at a world-class level.

Rick Sackbauer: While I’ve read newspaper articles on the plan, the board has not been approached by this group so I am unable to speak directly to the concept. I will, however, say that it’s critical for us to listen to all groups and evaluate their ideas and proposals. The VRD is always looking for opportunities to promote health and wellness in the community, but it’s important that we implement plans in a responsible manner and with the fiscal responsibility we owe our constituents. We will not support any plans which require funding from constituents for program deficits.

John Donovan: The health/wellness ” Vail 360″ is not entirely new; some NHL teams came here in the ’90s for preseason training and fitness. However, as I understand, the “Vail 360” plan will be a much more dynamic concept. To invite a broad spectrum of participants to Vail to eat, compete and sleep, means the VRD would have to be the cornerstone for all physical and mental activities. Our facilities must exceed our guests’ and participants’ expectations and our staff must provide four-star service.

Ken Wilson: The Vail 360 group is on to something. Health and wellness and the VRD go hand in hand. We obviously promote health and wellness every day through running races, bike races, gymnastics, tennis, soccer and golf. I think the VRD should be an integral part of this plan as we are already in the business of health and wellness. We live it every day. We already have many events that bring visitors to our town and that has been a goal of this board – “heads in beds” through recreation. I think the two groups fit well together.

Joe Hanlon: How seriously do you take recreation?

I take recreation seriously.

Rick Sackbauer: What qualifications would you seek from a candidate for the VRD board?

I’d like to see someone with:

• 20 years as an elected public official with amazing mentors such as Merv Lapin, Paul Testwuide, Ben Krueger, George Knox, Andy Daly, Glenn Porzak and others;

• A track record of successes in: Discussion, planning, action, accomplishment and celebration

• Someone with deep roots and long term ties to the VRD, as an individual, businessman and as a family;

• Visibility and approachability;

• An ability to think out of the box. That’s how Vail was built. Extraordinary recreation will take that kind of thinking.

John Donovan: Can VRD compete with Vail Resorts in the winter?

Absolutely. We have had the best ice in the state when we had the bubble on the driving range. Our gymnastic center is not a seasonal facility. The Nature Center is an underutilized asset in the winter months. One big industry name could act as an impetus to launch any of VRD’s winter venues into the next echelon. We have that ability.

Ken Wilson: Why vote for me?

Because I have the passion, experience and desire to serve in the face of some tough challenges ahead. I enjoy working with the staff, the town of Vail and being involved in a wide range of recreational programs that we offer. This is my way of contributing to my community and would love to have your support and vote.


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