Vail Valley Voices: Doubting Vail’s health and wellness play
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report in April. We plan to publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The Vail Golf Club proposed to be redeveloped under the town of Vail’s health and wellness initiative: Since the last major recession in the early 1980s, the town has chased the Holy Grail of expanding to a year-round economy.
Over the years, tremendous amounts of money and time have been spent trying to find the perfect economic panacea. Community pools and convention centers have had the most venting, but today, the newest incantation seems to be the health and wellness initiative.
Vail Valley Medical Center vital to Vail: The hospital has sustained a vitally important community hospital through the notoriety of its surgeons and reputation for excellence in sports medicine.
The Vail Valley Medical Center and the associated Steadman Hawkins Clinic have added value to a specialization born of necessity, treating ski-related injuries. Over the years, they have built a widely respected sports-medicine program.
For years, the lodging community has also hosted medical-training seminars, where doctors improve their professional skills in the morning and ski in the afternoon.
Health and wellness – back to the future: After nearly 21⁄2 decades of chasing the elusive elixir of a year-round economy, the economic productivity as tracked by sales tax receipts for the nonwinter season has remained more or less constant.
Proponents, in their latest attempt, now wish to reinvent their agenda and hope to move Vail center stage as the outdoor-sports, youth-oriented, health-and-wellness mecca.
Vail has, since its earliest days, been a place for elite athletes to host training camps and clinics for their adherents. The community has a successful history with these camps, the most notable being competitors groomed to international championship stature by Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. Lindsey Vonn comes to mind.
Many of these camps depend upon in-kind support and subsidies from Vail businesses and government. In the ’80s, when competitive tennis was the rage, the town invested considerable resources in facilities for professionally run training camps and hosted large spectator tournaments to draw in visitors.
The tennis courts in Vail where the spectator tournaments were held are now occupied by a row of trophy homes. Spectator golf, marathon running and road-bike racing have all seen their zenith eclipsed and have become normalized in the culture. Summer extreme sports as exemplified by the Teva Games are now in the public eye.
Health and wellness spending package – Christmas tree effect: Fair-minded critics ask, will the trajectory of this latest menu of health and wellness initiatives be any different for the echo generation than for the boomers?
Some ask, what relationship does a requested 1,000-seat conference center auditorium have to do with health and wellness? Is its inclusion in the Vail 360 program a thinly disguised strategic political alliance to bring back a concept rejected by the voters multiple times and again just a few years back?
Some worry that because of this and other alliances that the eclectic Vail 360 package suffers from the “Christmas tree effect,” in which too many ornaments are hung on the tree, causing it to fall of its own weight, taking the good down with the bad.
Gaining synergy among existing programs makes good sense. Massive spending on new facilities is to be seriously questioned. Times are tough.
It is being said by some hard-headed pragmatists that the town has huge amounts of money in its reserves, but should it be spent just because the money is there? What has changed to justify spending it?
Where are their successes, and why should we believe them this time around?
Health and wellness – wrong message: There are some highly skilled local marketing and public-relations professionals who say “health and wellness” sends a message that is in conflict with Vail’s image as the leading “outdoor lifestyle and mountain sports” resort.
It conjures up, in their observation, less-than-appealing imagery of pending atrophy and political gridlock. They cringe at the very mention of the subject because it leads to the perception of wearisome exchanges of carpers barbing harpers.
Some see it as pumping up the importance of a niche market, which, in the end, will continue to have limited importance to the economy.
They believe there is greater opportunity in growing Vail’s cultural, arts, educational and entertainment venues – which could, with improved coordination, be better integrated with athletic- and health-oriented programming.
There are those proposing mergers and reorganization of the multiplicity of government-supported groups charged with economic development.
Highlighting seasonal distinctions is the
probproblem, not the solution. Vail should not be transformed from a world-renowned “grand tour” resort into a suburban “edge city” of Denver.
Private sector responsibility: Others believe the community’s economic-development efforts are better left to the private sector than the town of Vail because as they see it, after millions of dollars in expenditures on studies, facilities and programs, the town has little to show for it.
The most successful programs operating today to expand the economy all were initiated, nurtured and funded by the private sector.
A very good case can be made that the public is in no mood to vote for more government spending in this area, period. Maybe the town should try a refreshing approach in funding more directly those programs that the private sector has been so successful in establishing.