Steamboat Springs City Council President Walter Magill thinks the city could buck some of its downtown parking woes by improving its rodeo grounds.
Magill is seeking support for a proposal to spruce up the entrance to the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena and its large parking area to make it a more inviting, and visible, downtown parking alternative.
There are already plans to pave more of the dirt parking area to create an improved lot that would offer more than 100 spaces.
The council president thinks these changes, combined with new wayfinding signage, could significantly increase the downtown parking inventory at a fraction of the cost of a large parking structure.
“I, for one, have said we have a downtown parking issue, and making our available assets more usable would go a long way and be kind of a cheaper fix versus buying or building a parking structure,” Magill said.
He said the current entry feature, which consists of a modest white sign, is "unwelcoming," adding that the project might be a candidate for excess lodging tax dollars.
Magill has previously been a strong advocate for paid parking in the downtown corridor.
But in recent years, the city’s elected officials have been almost evenly split on the issue and have lacked the votes to move meters forward.
Asked how improving the rodeo parking area and its entrance factors into his thinking about paid parking, Magill said he thinks it would delay the need for meters.
“Any kind of paid parking is going to move (cars) out into the neighborhoods,” Magill said.
What would the dream entrance to the rodeo grounds look like in Magill’s mind?
“I don’t feel a creative need to design it myself, but it would need to be something Western,” he said.
The rodeo grounds parking area is steps away from the Fifth Street bridge, which connects the Howelsen Hill Park area to Yampa Street.
There is also ample parking at Howelsen near the Ninth Street pedestrian bridge.
But a lack of night lighting has been cited as a reason some residents and visitors might not make the walk across the Yampa River for parking.
The Steamboat Springs Arts Council is proposing an artistic lighting installation in and around the Howelsen Tunnel that could serve as a creative way to solve the lighting problem.
Magill said planners of that project are trying to work through some issues, including the high cost and the possibility of flood damage from the spring deluge that often puts much of the tunnel underwater.
Asked for her thoughts on the rodeo ground improvement idea, Main Street Steamboat Springs Manager Lisa Popovich said she’s a fan.
“I think that’s a great idea for downtown,” she said. “I think it also gives people an option if the day were to ever come where we did have paid parking downtown.”
“I would love to see that whole area get a facelift,” Popovich continued. “It’s such an important part of our community.”
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10