VR should pay its own way for parking
Let me end the suspense and simultaneous tedium of a name-that-conference-center contest right now.If the $46 million, 50,000-square-foot facility ever gets built in Vail, it should be named the “Porter Wharton III Memorial Conference Center.”Apparently old Porter, Porter, Porter was the only member of the skico’s top brass who wanted the damn thing. It was Porter’s pet, and perhaps it bit him on the backside and contributed to his departure last fall.After promising a $9 million site contribution if voters approved the tax increases needed to build the center, Vail Resorts apparently has now decided parking is more of a priority than off-season conventioneers filling hotel rooms and dining in local restaurants.They’re still willing to fork over the land, but only if the town (using your tax dollars) builds a 350-space parking structure for the center, which the ski company would then use for skier parking during peak season. This, oddly, is all coming out after the election.Still not a problem, center backers say, because all along the center was intended primarily for off-season meetings. That may hold true, but I’ve got to think a big part of the appeal of holding a convention in Vail would be skiing. Sure not a lot of fun around here right now.Given the losses at its Keystone conference center, information that also came out after the election, it’s perhaps understandable that VR is now balking at the Vail facility. But they shouldn’t be allowed to use a publicly-funded facility to solve their very privately-generated parking problems.VR has sold its soul to the devil day skier, pulling in a cool $35 million a year in pre-season discount pass sales at its five ski areas. That’s great, and we should be happy to have the business in these bleak economic times, but with the masses come massive parking problems.Ski company officials can downplay the South Frontage Road gridlock all they want, but I know people who have experienced it and will never ski here again.Vail is walking a fine line, trying to cash in on Front Range day skiers while still remaining attractive as a destination resort. Flood the slopes with Front Rangers, though, and we become less attractive to fly-in big spenders.Clearly the day skiers are here to stay, though, so the ski company needs to find a place to park them, using their own money to pay the piper.Then they can name the new structure whatever they want, and we can call the new conference facility, built on the town-owned Hub Site, the “Kaye Ferry Memorial Meeting Space.”David O. Williams is managing editor of The Vail Trail and has been an editor and writer in the Vail Valley for more than 10 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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