Reader's View: New snow park in Eagle is a win for everyone

October 9, 2013 

Sam Sandmire.JPG

Sam Sandmire

Editor's note: Click here for an opposing viewpoint on the Eagle terrain park

When Ryan Neptune offered the city of Eagle a million-dollar snow park at no cost to taxpayers, people remarked that Eagle had “won the lottery.”

Gateway Park was fully vetted, received overwhelming support and was approved by City Council in August. The 11-acre park includes a tubing hill and terrain park for skiers and snowboarders constructed from man-made snow, and summer activities including bike trails and water sports.

Gateway will provide active entertainment for citizens of all ages. It will create revenue for Eagle, raise surrounding property values and create jobs.

The project is ready. But Eagle holds a 99-year lease from Ada County on the land, and the county commissioners have blocked progress on the park. Some of the reasons they have given include:

1. Ada County is not familiar with the project and wasn’t informed by the city of Eagle before the city approved it.

The commissioners’ chief of staff attended a city council meeting where Ryan Neptune presented the project. The city also sent several emails detailing the project to the commissioners’ office beginning in June.

2. Neighbors’ concerns.

Neighbors’ concerns have been addressed. Answers are on Eagle’s Web page. The snow park will use the water equivalent of 1.5 ball fields, will be paid for by the concessionaire and will not affect neighbors’ wells.

3. Commissioners don’t want a for-profit business operating on county property.

The city’s lease agreement allows it to enter into concession agreements. Private businesses already charge fees on county land at Barber Park, Hawks Stadium, the horse racing track and the fairgrounds.

4. Liability.

Liability issues have been addressed and the county is protected in the contract with a $5 million insurance policy.

5. Commissioners have heard that the leadership of Bogus is not supportive of this project.

Since Bogus Basin isn’t even in Ada County, I question why this keeps coming up. So I met with Bogus CEO Alan Moore, who told me Bogus’ board of directors is divided in their opinions. Mr. Moore expressed his concern, saying he “cannot be certain that Gateway Park will not have a negative impact on Bogus.”

I believe Bogus has the opportunity to profit from this project. The accessibility of Gateway Park will exponentially increase the number of kids who try skiing and snowboarding. A large percentage of those new riders will get hooked on the sport and find their way to Bogus. Prices are reasonable at both ski hills, so kids can ride both places. As a former coach, I believe competition encourages everyone to get better — and the kids will be the winners.

6. Commissioners want to see Mr. Neptune’s business plan.

Mr. Neptune has shared extensive information, including his pro forma with the city and county.

7. Commissioners are not sure the snow park will work.

Mr. Neptune’s company has built world-class snow venues for the Olympics, X Games, cities and ski resorts all over the world. All this park needs to be successful is for politicians to let it happen and for temperatures to drop below freezing.

8. Money. Finally convinced that Gateway Park can be successful, Ada County wants a cut.

Ada County signed a 99-year lease with the city. Eagle has invested $1.7 million into the property. Ada County hasn’t invested in it for nearly two decades. The city and county are negotiating.

I sincerely hope the county commissioners find a way to allow this worthwhile project to move forward in time for this ski season. If not, all of those families and children who are so stoked for this snow park will feel like the Grinch just stole Christmas.

Sam Sandmire coached gymnastics at Boise State for 20 years. She is an avid skier and the mother of a competitive freeskier.

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