Vail conference center decision postponed

Scott N. Miller
December 23, 2004

VAIL - The run-up to groundbreaking on a Vail conference center started on "fast forward." It slowed to "play" in the fall, and is now on "pause."

When the town started down the road to issuing debt for a Vail conference center, members of the town's advisory committee said they'd be ready to present the town council with a recommendation in December on a "go/no-go" decision.

That's government speak for a decision whether or not the center could be built with the cash flow provided by a lodging tax approved by voters in 2002. That decision date was pushed back to early February early in the fall.

It may now be April or May before the council makes the final decision whether or not the town can afford a conference center.

"We're not far enough along in the design phase for a firm estimate," said Councilman Kent Logan, who also serves on the conference center advisory committee. "At this point, an estimate would be the price of a concept ... It's just not prudent to put this out for bids yet."

Putting the job out for bids will require detailed plans from Fentress Bradburn Architects, the Denver firm designing the center. Those drawings are still several weeks away.

While the advisory committee waits for more information, Logan said, it still plans to interview general contractors in January. The committee will also continue to investigate financial projections for the center.

"It looks like reality has set in," Vail resident Paul Rondeau said. Earlier this year, Rondeau questioned whether the conference center plans were on a "fast path" that wouldn't allow a thorough evaluation of costs, cash flows and other factors.

With the latest delay in reaching a "go/no-go" decision, Rondeau said, he's less worried about the town making a hasty decision.

Other council members agreed with the decision to take a little more time.

"I'm glad you did this," Councilman Farrow Hitt said. "It's not really a backward step - you're doing what you're supposed to do."

Councilman Greg Moffet said he's comfortable with waiting, despite continued uncertainty about interest rates for revenue bonds.

"There's an increased interest-rate risk," Moffet said. "But we're continuing to collect the tax, so that would probably offset a higher interest."

When the decision to build or not does come, Rondeau said he hopes it's done with some fanfare. "It should be publicized as a major event," he said. "This is a big tent event."

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 613, or

By the numbers
$45 million: Estimated cost
$3 million: Annual collections from lodging tax to pay for the center
100,000: Total square feet
3,000: Most conventioneers the facility could handle
2007: Projected opening date