|Final Vail conference
center showdown begins
A 'no' vote on Election Day
could mean end of long-debated proposal
Opposing campaigns are now
active ahead of this fallís do-or-die vote for Vailís
controversial conference center project.
Special to the Daily
October 3, 2005
VAIL - Opposing sides are gearing up for a final
showdown on Vail's long-fought-over conference center.
Supporters, mainly merchants and hoteliers, say a conference center
next to the Lionshead parking garage will pump money into Vail's
economy. Opponents, including a group of residents that tried to force
a second vote on the center earlier this year, say the potential debt
is too risky for the town.
"All this stuff they're pitching is based on hocus pocus," Rob Ford,
an opponent of the center, said of supporters' promises of economic
gains. "It's not viable data."
On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to weigh in on a lodging tax increase
to help fund construction and operation of a $64.8 million conference
center. In 2002, voters approved a tax increase that was later
determined to be insufficient to build and operate the conference
center. The vote therefore, is essentially a do-or-die vote on the
"I'm convinced that if everybody knew what the revenue stream was from
the tax that's in place as well as the one proposed in November, as
well as the conservatism of those numbers, there's no way this will be
a drain on the taxpayers' money," said Rob LeVine, a supporter of the
A pro-conference center group called Citizens for
Vail's Future is composed primarily of business owners from around the
valley. The group is using word of mouth to push the conference
center, and plans to advertise and put up yard signs.
Its members also are meeting with different groups, including the
Rotary Club, said LeVine, one of the organizers. They also conducted a
telephone poll to gauge the public's opinions.
LeVine said there's already a long list of groups that would come to a
Vail conference center. He also said the center won't be a burden to
"I just want to make sure people understand the facts," he said.
Pam Stenmark of the Evergreen Lodge, who is part of the pro-conference
center group, said the center would boost sales at lodges, shops,
retail and bars.
'Outgunned, outmanned and outspent'
The opposition group, said Ford, a former Vail mayor, is trying to
educate the public about risks "the business interests don't want to
talk about," he said.
His group is trying to bring an expert on conference centers to the
valley to give a seminar on why it's a losing proposition, he said.
The people of Vail are on the hook for any debt undertaken by the
town, he said. Also, the projections that proponents use to push the
center are based on outdated numbers that don't reflect the current
state of the conference center industry, he said.
Ford said his campaign is grassroots compared to the supporters'
"We are outgunned, outmanned and outspent by business interests 100 to
one," he said. "It's more of a David-and-Goliath scene."
Both groups are registered with the town of Vail
to accept donations for their causes. The first date that those funds
will be reported is Oct. 18. Ford's group is the same one that
registered when the group tried to force a second vote on the center.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or