Keystone freestyle training center approved
BRECKENRIDGE – A proposed world-class training center for freestyle skiers and snowboarders won a 3-0 vote of approval from the Summit County commissioners Monday evening.
Despite protests from owners at the Tennis Townhomes and Quicksilver complexes, the Board of County Commissioners gave Keystone Resort a zoning approval to convert the dormant Keystone Tennis Center to the Landon Morley Sawyer Freestyle Training Center.
Out of more than 70 people at the meeting in the Summit County Courthouse, more than half clapped and cheered after commissioners voted.
“This is incredible for the community and for Team Summit and for the county. It’s going to change the face of training immeasurably,” said Chris Carson, director of youth programs for Team Summit. “I sympathize for the people who thought they bought into a tennis neighborhood, but they’re mostly second homeowners. The freestyle center will be more in line with what our community is about.”
Team Summit has sent 15 skiers to the Olympics the past 14 years. More than 500 young people ages 5 through 24 participate in the ski and snowboard club.
The Keystone freestyle training center will replace most of the indoor and outdoor tennis courts on a seven-acre parcel in Lakeside Neighborhood. The center will feature an aerial jump ramp, anti-gravity training, strength-conditioning facilities, foam pits, indoor and outdoor trampolines and other amenities.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding have been gaining in popularity and show no signs of slowing, particularly among youth ages 12-24. Elite athletes and students of freestyle skiing and snowboarding alike would flock to the center from across the nation and around the world, said several freestyle coaches at the hearing.
More than 100 homeowners have joined to file a lawsuit against Keystone Resort for allegedly violating its own rules. Not only does the freestyle center go against Keystone’s own neighborhood covenants, neighbors said, the proposal does not fit with either the Snake River Basin Comprehensive Plan or the tennis community they thought they bought into at the ski resort.
Summer features, such as a skate park and BM tracks, are part of the plans for the freestyle center.
“We pretty much expected it to pass, but we came to make our voices heard,” said John Walton, president of the Tennis Townhomes Homeowners Association. He unsuccessfully asked commissioners to postpone their vote until Keystone officials met with homeowners associations.
Walton said jump ramps should be on the mountain, not in the middle of the valley near residences. While he and others said they wanted to keep their mountain views, one mother of an Olympic freestyler said she thinks their views will be improved with the center.
“When some people look at plans they say (the center) looks like a twisted amusement park. When I see it, I’ll say, “Wow! That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!'” said Keystone resident Char Bloom, mother of noted skier and University of Colorado football player Jeremy Bloom. “To watch these young athletes come down the ramp, do a trick in the air and land in the pool is exciting to me. Please look at the other side of the issue and help make their dreams come true.”
Commissioner Bill Wallace said he agreed people would want to watch the airborne athletes. The freestyle events at the winter Olympics are the second-most popular events after figure skating competitions, said Landon Morley Sawyer Foundation spokesman Mitch Baranowski. The foundation, headed by the late Landon Sawyer’s parents, Ken and Linda Sawyer, proposes to build and operate the center, in concert with Keystone Resort.
Property owners and real estate agents at the hearing disagreed whether property values near the center would increase or decrease. Wallace said such a debate could last several years. He said he voted for the center because the site is zoned for recreation and Keystone’s development rights were transferred, not added.
Commissioner Tom Long tried to comfort Keystone residents concerned about noisy teens and crowds. He lives near the skate park in Silverthorne and he said teens are well behaved. Like skateboarding, people interested in freestyle skiing and snowboarding have historically been regarded more as daredevils than athletes.
“Things have taken a 180-degree turn since 1986, when we used to get in trouble for building jumps on the mogul run,” Carson said. “Those jumps were small compared to what’s planned at the freestyle training center. The attitude has really changed. The excitement of the sport speaks for itself.”
The foundation plans to begin using the former indoor tennis building as soon as possible, after a few details are worked out with Keystone, Ken Sawyer said.
Construction crews might start working next summer on the rest of the center, said Thomas Davidson, Keystone’s director of development. The freestyle center fits into Keystone’s new marketing makeover, aimed primarily at attracting young people.
“On behalf of all the freestyle skiers and snowboarders around the world, I want to thank the Sawyers, Keystone and most of all John Dowling for getting this project started,” said Katherine Lynch, one of the top women freestyle competitors in Team Summit. “This is the greatest thing to happen in our sport as long as I’ve been competing. I don’t know if the skier or the coach in me is more excited.”
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