Voters to decide fate of conference center money |

Voters to decide fate of conference center money

VAIL, Colorado – Vail may get a conference center one day, and that center may draw untold numbers of new customers. For now, though, taking better care of people who already come to town is the top priority.

Nine years after Vail voters decided to impose a lodging tax to build a conference center, and six years after those voters changed their minds, Vail’s voters are being asked to spend the money collected by that lodging tax on a handful of projects that will spruce up some existing town attractions.

At the top of the list is renovations to the clubhouse at the Vail Golf Club. That project will be done in conjunction with the Vail Recreation District, and district board chairman Joe Hanlon said it’s a project that’s long overdue, since the building was last remodeled in 1990 or ’92.

The planned renovation will also provide better facilities for Nordic skiers and snowshoers. Hanlon said while summer sees about 24,000 rounds of golf played, the Nordic center sees more than 60,000 visits the winter.

The renovation plans also include less restaurant space and more room for meetings and events such as wedding receptions.

Ballot issue supporter Michael Kurz said more weddings means more summer business.

More summer business could also come from expanding the playing fields at Ford Park. The ballot issue plan would give the park two full-sized soccer fields. That means more players and families and, presumably, more booked rooms.

Improving known attractions also includes a partnership with the Vail Valley Foundation for a five-point list of improvements at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater if the measure passes.

Those improvements include changes to the lawn seating – by re-grading and terracing it – renovating the entrances and adding restrooms.

Supporters say the proposed projects will bring some of the rest of Vail up to the standards set by new construction in town over the past several years.

“We need to continue looking at what’s going to keep Vail at the forefront,” Vail Valley Foundation Vice President of Communications John Dakin said. “We can’t sit still.”

If the measure passes, don’t look for work to start right away. Every project will have to go through the town’s planning process, so some work might start in the fall of next year, while other projects will be done in 2013.

Still, some people still believe in the conference center idea, even if this isn’t the right time, or the right pot of money, to do the job.

Antlers Lodge General Manager Rob LeVine has been a strong, consistent advocate that a conference center would be a boon for the town, especially in the spring and fall. Now, though, he’s a ballot measure supporter.

“Given the realities, I think this is the way to go,” LeVine said. “I’d always hoped we’d draw new money to town. But right now, the best we can do is protect what we’ve got.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

Support Local Journalism