Breckenridge Ski Resort chief warms to Tiger Dredge parking garage plan | SummitDaily.com

Breckenridge Ski Resort chief warms to Tiger Dredge parking garage plan

Tiger Dredge Lot Wednesday in Breckenridge. The COO of Breckenridge Ski Resort, John Buhler, had complimentary remarks for the town's efforts to build a parking garage at the site, contrary to prior concerns about the location.

In a surprise move, a high-ranking official with Vail Resorts publically commended Breckenridge Town Council on Tuesday for its work to build a new, downtown parking garage at the Tiger Dredge parking lot.

The kind words spoken during a ski-resort update at Tuesday's council meeting were a 180-degree turnaround from earlier public statements and letters to the editor issued on behalf of Vail Resorts, in which John Buhler, chief operating officer at Breckenridge Ski Resort, has not been shy about criticizing the town.

Vail Resorts owns and operates Breckenridge Ski Resort, in addition to almost a dozen other resorts across North America, and Buhler regularly updates Breckenridge Town Council about what's happening on the mountain.

Addressing council Tuesday, Buhler said resort officials "are thrilled to still be a part of the parking and transit issues in town," and added they look forward to working with the town's parking and transportation task force in the near future.

"At the same time, I really want to acknowledge all the work that's been done so far on the Tiger Dredge (parking lot)," Buhler continued. "I think that's a great project and want to continue to see you guys continue to stay on track with that."

Buhler calling the planned parking structure at Tiger Dredge "a great project" came as a shocker for many people in council chambers because it's only three months removed from comments in which Buhler attacked the council's decision to forego building a parking structure at F Lot in favor of the nearby Tiger Dredge lot.

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The spat between the town and its biggest economic engine stems from a voter-approved tax on lift-ticket sales at Breckenridge Ski Resort passed in November 2015. At the time the issue was being put on the ballot, Vail Resorts felt it had an agreement with the town that money generated by the new tax would be used to pay for construction of a large-scale parking structure with 500 to 700 new spaces at F Lot.

Most of the people currently serving on council had not been elected to their positions when the parking promise would have been made, and they have argued they are only acting in the best interest of the town and its residents as they look to ease one of the biggest problems facing Breckenridge today.

The location of the new parking garage doesn't seem to be too much of an issue — as the new structure at Tiger Dredge will actually spill over onto the F Lot property — but the smaller structure, with which the town is creating just under 300 additional spaces, appears to be the crux of Vail Resorts' complaint.

In Tuesday's comments, Buhler said Vail Resorts still has a "desire for (the town) to continue to look beyond just Tiger Dredge and onto other aspects of parking to get close to that 600 number."

In the same sentence, however, he called the planning and design work that's been done so far at Tiger Dredge "phenomenal," while also telling council that Vail Resorts will continue "to look for (the town) to take on the next phase of parking."

"You got some land for us?" Mayor Eric Mamula joked as Buhler wrapped up.

"There's still the ice rink, right?" Buhler replied, referencing another location — the Stephen C. West Ice Arena — where the town might decide to add more parking in the not-too-distant future.

At that moment, Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron chimed in, saying the ice rink has been his "favorite the whole time," and Buhler told him, "I still think it's a good one."

That statement too backtracked from Buhler's update last July, when he flatly told council: "The ice rink is not in (the) core of town and is certainly not skier parking."

As far as building at the ice rink goes, town staff members have repeatedly voiced opposition to taking on two large-scale parking projects at the same time, which would be highly problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it would take two highly utilized parking lots out of commission at the same time.

Preliminary estimates have pegged the cost of a new parking garage at Tiger Dredge at about $8.9 million. However, those are early figures, and a question mark currently serves as a placeholder in the town's working budget.

Town staff has been adamant that construction at Tiger Dredge needs to begin this spring, and it's likely the town will see a ground-breaking early next year.