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Letters to the editor

John Dawsey

I have had the pleasure of living in the Vail Valley for the past 14 years, and for nearly that entire time, I have been involved in selling Vail as a destination for groups and individual travelers. When the conference center was approved by the Vail voters in 2002, I was excited to know that Vail would finally build a venue that would provide a much-needed facility to help support the summer and shoulder seasons and be a welcome addition for local events through the year. When you boil it down, the conference center makes sense for Vail on so many fronts. First and foremost, it is a facility designed to bring in guests who spend money during times when we are not at full capacity. No one proposing the center has any illusions of turning May or October into time periods where the town is running 70 percent to 80 percent occupancies. But moving out of the teens and 20s and into the 30 percent and 40 percent occupancy range would be a big financial boost to the merchants and town coffers, not to mention keeping hard-working locals employed. During our normal peak periods, this facility would provide a great venue for local events, concerts, festivals and seminars. Tourists, locals and second-home owners would all benefit from the conference center. I know some of the smaller lodges and property management companies feel that they won’t directly benefit from a conference center. Therefore, a few are opposing it. The reality is that when a large group is booked in town, it has a compression effect, filling rooms and generating business throughout the community regardless of whether those businesses are directly involved. A rising tide lifts all ships. Some opponents say that a conference center will only benefit the large hotels and Vail already has enough conference space to handle the current volume of business. If that’s the case, why would every major hotel and lodge with function space support the conference center? There is a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have a tremendous opportunity to make a real improvement to non-ski-season business. This center will make the difference!The most frustrating argument I hear from opponents is the “doom and gloom” nature of how this facility is destined to fail and drag Vail down with it. Do people actually believe that? After all, Vail is the leading mountain destination in North America year in and year out, and it’s not just because of the skiing. Do you not have faith in the people who work hard to keep this destination at the top?Tourism is our business. We have some of the best hospitality operators and business leaders in the resort industry. Not only will we be good at it, we will be one of the best. I have no doubt if the conference center is approved, when looking back, this debate will be a moot point. Let’s not forget that not long ago there were vocal opponents to Ford Park, Donovan Pavilion and the roundabouts. Many of the same arguments were made about what a waste of taxpayer money they were and how they were doomed to failure. Have those projects not been a great success? You certainly do not hear those same opponents bashing them now. The question regarding the conference center is no longer IF but WHEN. IF we don’t approve it now, we’ll only be going through the same debate in five years, and instead of trying to figure out how to build a $64 million facility, we’ll be trying to figure out how to fund a $90 million one.John DawseyVail, Colorado


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