By Allen Best
Cycling Challenge a winner
VAIL, Colo. – Coloradans last week lit out for backcountry roads and city streets to watch some of the world’s best bicycle riders. From the start at Colorado Springs to the finish line in Denver, there were large crowds all along the way.
Whether it produced much money for mountain towns along the way seems to be almost incidental. More towns – including Durango and Telluride, as well as the university towns of Boulder and Fort Collins – want to participate next year.
Those reporting from the race course reported a carnival-like atmosphere, with all manner of people in costumes, some of them downright bizarre. The Denver Post tells of somebody dressed like Jesus with a white robe and a crown of thorns carrying a sign reading “Spandex is sin.”
In estimating crowd sizes, race organizers consistently erred on the size of inflated numbers. In Summit County, for example, they estimated 50,000 people lined the race course. The county has a permanent population of about 20,000.
However an ostensibly more objective third party, The Steamboat Pilot, said that turnout for the leg of the race from Avon was the largest that has ever occurred in downtown Steamboat Springs, surpassing even the Fourth of July parade and the Winter Carnival festivities.
The race was the idea of Lance Armstrong, now a part-time Aspen resident, who called then-Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and asked him why Colorado didn’t have a high-caliber bicycle race. And so the wheels began spinning.
A principal figure is Richard Schaden, a Boulder-based trail lawyer and businessman (Quiznos sandwich chain and Smashburger), who put $10 million into the race along with his son and business partner, Rick Schaden.
The elder Schaden told reporters in Aspen that he knew they had a hot property when the first three finishers on the Tour de France this year bypassed a race in Spain to come to compete in the Colorado race.
While the race was capital intensive in its first year, he said that in future years he sees bidding wars between major sponsors. He said he will give the race three years to take off before he would pull the plug.
Developer asks to be downsized
KETCHUM, Idaho – A developer of a giant resort complex at the base of the Sun Valley ski area has returned before town officials in Ketchum, asking them to authorize a much smaller project.
No financing has yet been found to build the 800,000-square-foot project, said attorney Ed Lawson, representing Helios Development. Helios now wants a 250,000 square-foot reduction. Before, it had said it needed more to make the numbers work.
Original plans called for a nine-story luxury hotel with 120 rooms located along a nine-hole golf course and with workforce housing for 93 employees. In addition to rooms, the recreational amenities have been pared. Four tennis courts, instead of eight, are planned, and the golf course reduced to a practice facility, reports the Idaho Mountain Express
The developer also wants Ketchum to waive the front-ended workforce housing requirements, to be replaced by an in-lieu fund generated by a tax on the sale of merchandise at the property.
New airport planning on hold
HAILEY, Idaho – Efforts of tourism promoters in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area suffered another blow this past week when the Federal Aviation Administration announced it was suspending work indefinitely on the environmental review for a new airport.
Concerns about impact to sage grouse, as well as rising costs, were cited. Since 2006, the costs of the new airport have increased from $107 million to $314 million. As well, the FAA says that compensating for loss of habitat for sage grouse would be problematic. The grouse became a candidate species for federal protection last year, due in part to fragmentation of habitat.
The Ketchum-Sun Valley market is currently served by an airport at Hailey, located about 10 miles from the resort, but it has many limitations. Last winter, about 30 percent of all resort guests arrived via the Hailey airport, called Friedman Airport, with another 30 percent arriving via airports in Twin Falls, about 90 minutes away, or at Boise, about three hours away.
What happens next is unclear, but the Idaho Mountain Express focused on new approaches to a more limited expansion of the existing airport at Hailey. An existing agreement governing airport operation at Hailey is premised on the idea that it will not be expanded.
Plans to develop a new airport stemmed largely from determinations by the FAA that Friedman, the existing airport, does not meet safety standards for handling certain types of large aircraft. A waiver was granted for certain conditions.
But Rick Baird, manager of the airport, noted that Sun Valley may lose service, because regional carriers aren’t purchasing the sort of aircraft that are needed to provide service to Friedman Airport.