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Vail sells its Old Town Shop for water

Geraldine Haldner

In less than six months, the run-down, barn-like building on a half-acre lot on South Frontage Road will make room for an expanded water and sewage treatment plant.

The new plant is needed to handle anticipated growth in Lionshead, where at least a dozen properties are slated for major expansion projects over the next five years.

Vail Resorts alone is planning to raze buildings on five of its properties in Lionshead to make room for two new hotels, as well as a condominium complex and outdoor shopping center.

Gymnastics to Avon

According to a Nov. 19 sales agreement between the town of Vail and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the old shop has changed hands for $1.15 million – or almost $400,000 more than its appraised value in March.

In addition to a higher sales price, the water district has also agreed to pay a $20,000 “relocation fee” to help move the Vail gymnastics program to Avon – a small price to pay to nudge the sale along.

The gymnastics program, which enrolls about 250 Vail Valley children, has been housed on the shop’s second floor for the past 15 years. A small fleet of town vehicles, stored on the ground level, will be moved to a newly expanded storage facility on Elkhorn Drive, which has cost the town $750,000.

For the time being, the gymnastics program will relocate to a vacant building in Avon belonging to Vail Resorts. As part of the sales agreement, the town of Vail and the district will each contribute $20,000 to transform the 5,600-square-foot office and storage building into a gymnastics center.

The ski company has agreed to lease the building to the Vail Recreation District, which oversees the gymnastics program, for $1 a year until 2004.

At least three Vail Town Council members say the town needs to be weary of the temporary solution, arguing against losing any family-friendly outlet to a neighboring community.

“In my opinion, it’s essential to keep as many recreational components as possible in Vail, including the gymnastics program,” says councilman Chuck Ogilby. “I don’t want to see us any of our existing recreational uses and facilities leaving town. I think it is very important that Vail has a diversity in recreation and is seen as a vibrant recreation center.”

Rec center

Ogilby says he favors the construction of a multi-purpose recreation center within the town limits.

“When we talk indoor recreation center, it could be another sheet of ice, a youth center, a place for gymnastics, an indoor skate park – all those things that we had on the wish list for the Vail Center,” Ogilby says.

Cost estimates for such a center have come back at $3.5 and $4 million. The Vail Center, a combination conference and community center on a half-acre site at the eastern end of the Lionshead Parking Structure, was deflated two years ago when the price tag first ballooned to $76 and then burst at $100 million.

Despite its ill-fated debut, the Vail Center concept still has a place in Vail, Ogilby says.

“I would like to see us as make the Vail Center a piece of the Lionshead redevelopment,” he says.

Ogilby says he would like to explore if an approximate $7.5 million earmarked for more parking in the five-year capital improvement plan, could be used to plan and build a community and recreation center.

“If we can manage parking in other ways or pay for more parking with revenues bonds – paying the debt with parking fees – we can take the parking component out of the equation,” Ogilby says.

A community and recreation center, he says, would generate the kind of buzz the five-year capital improvement plan has failed to attract so far. Vail voters rejected a property-tax increase to fund the plan Nov. 5.

“We could turn that part of the plan into something that would add a little pizazz to it,” Ogilby says, adding that the plan lacks something voters could claim as their own.

“Most of it is infrastructure,” Ogilby says. “A Vail Center project would really generate the kind of excitement we need for a renewed Vail.”

Other council members, however, are cautioning their colleagues against spreading the town’s withering income over too many pet projects.

Councilman Dick Cleveland says the town needs to focus on coming up with a new income source before adding more projects to the $88 million capital improvement plan, which the voters didn’t like.

Bill Jewitt, meanwhile, supports a cooperative effort with other communities to build a regional recreation facility.

Water deal

While the town will have to come to a terms with indoor recreation over the next two years, the water district and Vail Resorts will begin sharing a snowmaking pipe as soon as the new plant is completed in early 2004.

Dennis Gelvin, the water district’s general manager, says the district will treat water pumped from the Eagle River at Dowd Junction via a pipe that previously has been used for snowmaking. The pipe will be shared on a seasonal basis.

Paul Testwuide, senior vice-president of resort projects for the ski company, says Vail Mountain only uses the snowmaking pipe for a few months a year.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to allow the water district to use what’s already there,” he says. “(It) will will ultimately enhance year-round stream flows in Gore Creek.”

Geraldine Haldner covers Vail, Minturn and Red Cliff. She can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 602, or at ghaldner@vaildaily.com.


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