Will Vail’s ice rink get second floor?
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –The Dobson Ice Arena and Vail Golf Club could be Vail’s new hubs for health and wellness-related events, that is if the town and the community can come up with ways to pay for upgrades to the buildings.
The $24.6 million plan to add a second floor to the Dobson Ice Arena, along with new buildings at the Vail Golf Club, is intriguing enough for Vail Town Council members to want to hear more, but the question of how to pay for it is far from being answered.
The plan, which is the brainchild of Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Board chair Beth Slifer, could begin construction next summer if the town and the community can agree on it soon. The new facilities would provide spaces for classes, events, meetings and recreation, among other uses.
“It really depends on if, in this short time frame, we can define the spaces, get agreement from the financial institutions for the additional funding and move forward rapidly,” Slifer said.
Slifer presented her proposal to the Town Council last week, citing the options as the fastest ways to bring more guests to Vail to fill up hotel rooms and spend money shopping and dining. She said the town needs to move fast to capture the market for the up and coming health and wellness trend – a trend other resorts have yet to fully recognize.
“Our job, as the Marketing Board, is to drive heads in beds,” Slifer said. “This (health and wellness trend) is a track we think will save us in the future.”
The money for the projects would come from the $9.3 million in conference center funds raised by a special lodging tax several years ago, which would need voter approval before it’s used. Slifer said the rest would have to come from debt that the town could repay through tax increment financing.
Slifer points toward the town’s financial situation in 2012 – it will be out of debt, excluding its Timber Ridge debt – and financially able to assume new debt, Slifer said.
Whether the town should spend its debt on the new health and wellness movement, which is the driving force behind the need for upgraded facilities, is up for debate.
“It might be able to get done – we’d have to really take a good look at it,” said Vail Councilman Kevin Foley. “But how much would it cost and who’s going to foot the bill.”
Foley thinks the business community has a major role in deciding how to move forward with Slifer’s proposals. The responsibility needs to be somewhat mutual, he said.
“To put the burden solely on the town, I don’t think is right,” Foley said. “We’ll help you if you help us.”
The town has a long list of wants and needs for its own improvement projects and has been struggling to figure out how to pay for them. When asked why the town should put the Dobson Ice Arena renovation and Vail Golf Club buildings ahead of other projects, Slifer said because this is what will bring in revenue.
She said large groups who want to hold their meetings or conventions in Vail are often turned away because the facilities in town just don’t cut it.
“The number of heads in beds we have missed out on (in recent years) is extraordinary,” Slifer said. “There’s so many people who would like to come to a resort for their meetings, and so few resorts can accommodate them.”
Slifer said Vail can get ahead of the curve by building facilities now and grabbing that group business for solid, year-round revenues.
As Vail Town Council members still wrap their heads around the idea and whether it’s a feasible one, some do like the thought that has gone into upgrading existing buildings rather than new development.
“It seems wise, in my opinion, to investigate renovating some existing structures with the funding we have available rather than build new structures,” said Councilwoman Kim Newbury. “It generally seems like a good idea, in this economy, to look at renovating existing buildings.”
The plan requires $17.5 million to add the second floor to the Dobson Ice Arena, and another $4.9 million to build a 6,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and an 8,000-square-foot indoor multipurpose center at the site of the aging Vail Golf Club clubhouse.
Foley said if the town needs to learn more about the proposal, including solid estimates on how much it would cost and how long the Dobson Arena would have to be out of commission during construction.
“I’d like to see more nuts-and-bolts of what it will cost, how long the arena will be down for and what kind of support we’re going to get from everyone else,” Foley said.
Councilwoman Kerry Donovan said the Dobson Arena has become an “iconic piece of Vail,” which is why should doesn’t want the building compromised too much.
She, too, is intrigued by the plan and wants to hear more. She said she likes how Slifer has listened to many groups within the community and have come up with a plan that tries to include everyone.
Slifer said the next steps include more communication with the community so they know what’s being proposed. She said the town’s business forum on April 8 is the first step toward getting information out there.
Slifer hopes for enough consensus in the coming months to get a question on the November ballot asking voters whether the town can use the conference center funds. The town council also needs to decide whether taking on debt is appropriate.
“I think this should be a priority because it will generate revenue,” Slifer said.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.