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Yes on conference center

Don Rogers

The risk is low, the probable gain high. The Vail conference center is poised to join the town’s long line of successes with public projects – from Dobson Arena and the Ford Amphitheater to Donovan Pavilion, which already is exceeding expectations.Yes, the center also is expensive, like these and other Vail projects. Just renovating the Pirate Ship playground cost a whopping $300,000.And yes, the town is undergoing a remarkable renaissance, after about two decades of talking about it to little effect. Incredibly, talking about a conference center has gone on even longer than that. Failure of this ballot won’t stop that. It’s too good of an idea to let go.Some critics like to toss out the tired old saw that there aren’t enough facts, not enough studies to make a decision. But really, could there possibly be more studying left to do at this point? The center would be built and attracting business already if the Town Council had acted promptly following the voters’ will in 2002. Instead the town leaders let the opponents run the clock in a variety of ways, including calls for more study, more committee work and a timely fumble of locations by Vail Resorts.Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.But never mind, here we are again, with a more expensive concept, possibly higher room tax and no more illumination in this blizzard of figures that some call conclusive evidence of success and others want you to see as notice of doom.But the center itself was a good idea three years ago, and it’s a good idea now. If fits Vail hand in glove, promising to fill hotel rooms and generally boost the local economy in ways nothing else would.The inadvertent reserve of tax revenue that has built up since 2002 is helpful now. And the tax will cover the payments for the facility, even those balleyhooed operational deficits.The critics – none of whom have any expertise to base this argument upon – frankly display ignorance when, wide-eyed, they express dismay at the center possibly running a million dollar defict in its early years. But the town doesn’t bat an eyelash at spending that much and more to boost business in lots of ways. And plenty of public facilities require subsidies while providing a higher economic or recreational return. “Experts” won’t help you on this one. They line up on either side of the question. So do bright, savvy community leaders. For every Diana Donavon and Kaye Ferry who tell you this is too risky, there’s an Andy Daly and Rod Slifer who understand the conference center is far more likely to help this great town.The conference center will make Vail a more vibrant place, but only if the voters are bold enough to make it happen.Vail, Colorado


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