The rush to a conference center

Paul Rondeau
December 9, 2004

From a Vail stakeholder standpoint, the conference center is really going through only two financial checkpoints of substance involving the public:

-- Voter approval: Passage in November 2002, following an organized get-out-the-vote campaign, with a massive turnout of 1,658 voters and approval by some 40-50 ballots.

-- Final go/no-go decision: Scheduled for early 2005 and promised to be the "real deal" in terms of transparency, coupled with an opportunity for dialogue and the expectation of tough 11th-hour brigade questions. This is the big event that precedes the issuing of bonds and putting Vail on the line in the national financial community. Note: The feasibility study, completed in May 2004, was pretty much handled as a non-event - i.e., no press release, etc.

So now is the time to formulate the tough questions. I'll throw out two 20-20 hindsight questions that might be used to construct thought-provoking dialogue:

-- If we had the same ballot before us today, would we vote it in again?

Consider the Denver Post's recent article on convention centers in quoting public policy professor Sanders as saying "everyone is scrambling in an overbuilt market for whatever modest scraps they can pick up."

-- If we were voting today, would we structure it the same way? Or might we require a public-private partnership formula with the lodging community and town to share any surplus or deficit from an established baseline?

Regardless of your feelings or interest in the conference center benefits, the design option selected (the natural look, with iconic pine tree) is bound to get your juices flowing after these many months of waiting. But we need to step back now and have a balanced, non-emotional focus on this project as a triangle with its three legs:

-- Yes, the design option has been selected. How it will work in Vail and how we will get the environmental features specified in the design criteria.

-- Also, financial estimates to build/maintain the structure and run the operation.

-- Most importantly, no-nonsense estimates of who will come and what they will pay/spend, coupled identifying implications of potential shortfalls.

In my reviewing titles and overviews of top selling nonfiction books, I have recently learned a new word - hubris. It means excessive or arrogant self-confidence. I hope this is not the watchword that is driving a conference center decision. Hence, I look forward to the real deal in the go/no-go checkpoint session. I hope it includes hearing from members of the Conference Center Committee beyond the two Town Council members.

This request is in part an opportunity for recognition of the hard work and dedication by all members of the committee.

Finally, it IS all about process, the focus from myself and other "back-benchers" over the years.



Paul Rondeau lives in Vail