Vail Valley Voices: What to do with conference center loot?
July 31, 2010
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report for July. The Daily publishes weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town. The newsletter’s electronic version with links to supporting documents is available at http://www.vailhomeowners.com.
The Town Council has established an advisory committee to make recommendation on what bricks and mortar projects should receive all or a portion of $9.7 million left in a special fund after voters rejected a $60 million-plus conference center in 2005.
The committee is expected to make its recommendation by early September. Vail voters have to approve spending the money. It is doubtful that the council will take the committee’s recommendation to the voters this year.
Voters in no mood to raise taxes or spend on non-essentials: The town of Avon just pulled an aggressive $100-million transportation proposal off the agenda for consideration on the fall ballot. Government officials are very nervous about doing anything that would antagonize voters because of a state ballot initiative that would, some analysts say, tie elected officials’ hands behind their back on spending matters.
No silver bullet solutions: The conference center fund, if the council chose, could be combined with as much as $30 million in the town’s $50 million reserve fund. Even so, some critics say, $40 million doesn’t go very far when building a major public amenity.
Many doubt that there is any one silver bullet solution that will add substantively to the community’s bottom line.
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Opponents of the 2005 proposal ask rhetorically what would the town’s finances be like now if the conference center had been built? It would have opened just about the time the 2008 recession hit, which caused the convention market to collapse where it remains today.
Grandiose or pragmatic? One of the more elaborate proposals now on the table is to demolish and replace the Dobson Ice Arena with a much grander multi-story (by some estimates 85 feet high) edifice that would house an ice arena and large convention center. Critics say it was the very same overly elaborate concept that led to the repeated failure of any conference center proposal to gain voter approval. Also, it would block primary views from an adjacent large condominium project.
Mind the neighbors: It is the very same condominium project whose primary views of Vail Mountain now include the glare of a new white metal roof added to the arena last year. The council has recently decided to not replace the roofing. It continues to investigate the options of tinting the condominium owners’ windows or putting camouflage netting over the offending roof.
The association notes that the town still has not made substantive progress in notifying neighbors of pending design review approvals. The lack of sufficient neighborhood notification led to what many believe was a $700,000 mistake – the cost of the arena’s new metal roofing.
There are those who believe that the ambitious redevelopment proposal for Dobson Arena should be walked back to a more modest retrofitting of the existing facility. They argue that the arena needs to return to its original purpose of being a convertible multi-purpose event center that could seat 2,000-plus people, while still retaining a competitive ice rink under a retractable floor.
Why duplications? There are several other candidates being considered for the conference center fund. One includes the purchase of the vacant Colorado Mountain College learning center in Cascade Village. Cascade Village already has well-established sports therapy facilities and practitioners that complement those at the Vail Valley Medical Center.
Another proposed project for the funds could be building public parking for the Vail Valley Medical Center on the east end of the Lionshead parking structure and modifying Dobson Arena to expand their sports medicine therapy facilities.