Vail’s ‘Civic Area’ plan draws plenty of comments so far, many about Dobson Ice Arena | VailDaily.com

Vail’s ‘Civic Area’ plan draws plenty of comments so far, many about Dobson Ice Arena

Plan expected to be complete later in 2019

Vail's "civic area" is the focus of the town's most recent planning efforts.
By the numbers566: People who registered on the EngageVail.com website.367: People contributed comments and information to that site.84.6 percent: Participants who own homes.34.4 percent: Participants from households with children living at home. 

VAIL — Housing and parking are near the top of residents’ ideas for Vail’s civic area. But so are improvements to treasured town assets.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday heard a report on what’s been learned from consultants reaching out to residents through the EngageVail.com website. That effort to hear from the public has had good results.

Danica Powell of the Trestle Strategy Group told council members that hundreds of people responded on the website. The planning team — Powell, Tom Braun and architect Louis Bieker — reached out at public open houses and meetings of community groups including the Vail Economic Advisory Council and local youth groups.

All of that was an effort to learn what people would like to see for the area including the Vail Public Library, Dobson Ice Arena, the Lionshead Parking Structure and the town’s municipal complex.

There are no firm plans — and no funding in place — but when the plan is ready later this year, it should guide town officials’ thinking.

The ice arena drew a lot of interest, both for its current needs and what could be there in the future. One of the biggest needs residents pointed out is for better pedestrian access to the facility, as well as easier ways to drop off and pick up kids.

Tom Boyd — the Vail Valley Foundation’s communications director — grew up in Vail and still lives in the valley. Boyd spent much of his youth playing hockey at the arena and spends time there now with his own kids.

“I applaud the effort to make a pedestrian-safe, walkable area a priority,” Boyd told council members. Boyd also said the arena has a lot of potential if a second ice sheet could be added to the facility.

Now a mid-valley resident, Boyd told council members that the primary reason he comes to Vail outside of working hours is to go to the arena.

The arena in many ways is the “heartbeat of the community,” said council member Kim Langmaid, who also grew up in Vail. “It brings families in from throughout the valley.”

Expanding the arena — or building on the charter bus parking lot on the southeast corner of the Lionshead parking structure — could also allow the town to build something many residents have long requested — some sort of meeting and events facility.

Beth Slifer, of the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, told council members the town needs look into finding space for 1,500 people in the same place.

“We’ve been turning away groups that need (room for) 1,500,” Slifer said.

In addition to the main space, Caitlin Murray of the Bravo! Vail Music Festival told council members there’s also a need for smaller spaces for smaller meetings or small-group rehearsals.

The civic area plan is also looking at the site of the current town hall and the building just to the west that houses the Vail Community Development Department.

Both of those buildings date to the 1970s, and the town is spending a good bit of money on upkeep and upgrades. What might replace those buildings on a roughly 2-acre site is still a matter for discussion.

But, Braun said, the idea behind what facilities could be upgraded or replaced is only part of the point of the planning.

Braun said what’s important is to breathe life in the area between the resort villages and the “spaces in between” the buildings.

“This is not about how much stuff we can build, but how it works,” Braun said.

That was good news to Langmaid, who talked about a drawing former Vail Mayor John Dobson once created. That drawing depicted skyscrapers dwarfing the hillsides, Langmaid said.

“We need to not just make (Vail) a resort,” Langmaid said. “We need to make it unique, and not just another roadside attraction.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.