Vail Valley Voices: What to do with Vail’s pot o’ gold?
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the Vail Homeowners Association monthly report in January. We publish weekly excerpts from the association, which keeps a close eye on economic and political trends in and outside of the town.
There are now multiple initiatives from groups that have designs on the $9.3 million Vail Conference Center Fund. There is intense backroom jockeying for political pole position.
To date, few if any of the propositions target the mainstay of Vail’s economy, the winter season, when the biggest return on investment is to be made with the least effort. Most are aimed at niche summer and offseason markets — important but in these times of economic crisis, not as essential.
Some believe it is time to ask the questions on how, if, or when the fund should be spent. But the Vail Town Council has as yet to create a level playing field by which each group’s proposal can be evaluated according to standard business and financial practices.
The council should, in the view of some, require each group to deliver a business plan for public consideration. The plans must show how they will deliver the fastest and highest return on investment to reverse the town’s downward economic spiral.-
Convention and conference center proposed: There are those holding strong sentiments that the fund be used for the originally established purpose: expanding economic opportunities for the lodging and retail businesses during the summer and off seasons.
There is a faction sharing this view that insists that the fund be used for a bricks and mortar project in the form of a conference or convention center. They hold to this irrespective of the fact that the voters have consistently rejected other similar proposals. These sectors have formed an alliance with another faction that is promoting a realignment and expansion of Vail’s health and wellness resources with the hope of building a large convention-conference center.
Critics say the realities of “new normal” give even less reason for Vail to build a large capacity public convention-conference center.-
Redevelopment of Dobson Arena considered: This coalition has led to a proposal to radically alter Dobson Arena by tearing off the roof and replacing it with a high-ceilinged, two-story addition. One floor being built within the massive trusses needed to span the ice arena. The truss system could be designed to support a voluminous enclosed space above.
The Vail Recreation District is the current tenant and manager of the town of Vail-owned arena. The new floor area could be allocated for public recreation and health-and-wellness programs offered by the nearby Vail Valley Medical Center.-
A redevelopment proposal of this magnitude would further antagonize adjacent residential property owners in the Vail International Building. These owners are already chaffing over the glare resulting from the town’s Design Review Board snafu that replaced the arena’s aesthetically neutral shake shingle roof with one in gleaming white metal.
The existing arena’s roof was specifically designed and approved in the mid-1970s by an empathetic Town Council in order to be sensitive to the need to protect the views of Vail Mountain from the Vail International.
The proposed multi-floor addition would instead block views. Similarly, the arena roof on the interior was designed to be acoustically perfect, so it could, as it has for decades, host many large musical and entertainment venues. It is highly doubtful that the extent of the proposal could be built for the amount available in the Conference Center Fund.
Cascade Village cultural and athletic facilities hold promise: Others in the health-and-wellness faction are considering aligning with a group of fine arts and cultural proponents who are advocating using the Conference Center Fund to purchase the former Colorado Mountain College Adult Education Learning Center in Cascade Village.
Cursory analysis of the facilities in the 30-year-old building shows that it appears to be adaptable to each of the groups’ programs. It is available for immediate occupancy with minimal renovation. The purchase price of an existing building is far below the cost of building new or doing a major renovation.
Proponents say they can achieve the purchase and minimal upgrade within the monies in the Conference Center Fund. Some see the potential of also upgrading the adjacent Cascade Athletic Club so that it could be adapted to support sports medicine and professional training programs.-
None of the advocates for any of these propositions has yet to define the details of their individual programs. They have yet to demonstrate how quickly and to what degree their proposal will contribute to an economic recovery.
Assuming each are highly successful, critics say they would still only account for stimulating very limited portions of Vail’s overall tourism economy.
Meanwhile, the community is entering its second year of the great recession with no comprehensive long-term proactive strategy to stimulate its qualitative recovery.-