Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Build it, and they will come

Your paper quoted the prospective hotel developer Steve Burnstead as saying "Ketchum ... is a pretty sleepy place at night. This is a little bit of a field of dreams."

It's worth noting that Ketchum didn't used to be that way. We once had nightlife on a par with any other ski town you care to name. There's a reason Main Street was known as the Street of Dreams.

But now it's a field, apparently, and from Mr. Burnstead's point of view, our sleepy downtown means a residence component is necessary to make his hotel viable. I can't help thinking: Wouldn't it be better if we had a town so vibrant that building a hotel was attractive all by itself?

We're giving a lot away due to our quiet streets, and it isn't just hotel rooms. Nightlife is an integral part of a ski town's allure, and it's to our benefit to promote it. Encouraging nightlife through festivals and events means more business for restaurants, more bookings for accommodations and, in turn, more business for retail.

I believe there are two key improvements we need to make to achieve this. Ketchum desperately needs a real performing arts hall on Main Street, and it needs an outdoor venue located where events can benefit both retail and restaurants. In both cases, we should aim for excellence. If we wish to be a world-class resort, then we should aspire to cultural facilities of the same caliber.

The nextStage should be the start to our plans, but the addition of the Williams building could create a performing arts oriented development that would hugely benefit our downtown. The proposed city plaza, if designed as an attractive performance venue, could comprise our outdoor component. With these steps taken we can move toward making Ketchum a place that's renowned for art and fun, instead of being known for rolling up our sidewalks at night. Which would you rather see covered in SKI magazine?

Lee Chubb


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