Area sports teams learn to deal with Glenwood Springs bridge project
Not often does a team have to leave six hours ahead of kickoff in order to confidently make the 50-mile jaunt to the game. But this was reality for the Basalt High School football team Friday when it had to navigate the Glenwood Springs Grand Avenue Bridge project and its many delays and detours to reach Rifle for its season opener.
“Sitting on the bus is really what we don’t want the kids doing for two hours. I really do think it makes a difference for how you are going to play,” BHS coach Carl Frerichs said. “The same thing, you don’t want to be sitting at the high school forever. We don’t want to be sitting on a bus forever. So we are trying to figure out ways to occupy our time and keep the kids busy and fresh so they are ready to go.”
The Longhorns left Basalt at 1 p.m. Friday to make their 7 p.m. game, an eventual 34-14 loss. They made it to Rifle by 3 p.m. and had dinner there before heading to the field. The reason for leaving when they did also was to avoid the rush-hour traffic that has led to long delays getting through the Glenwood bridge project, which started about two weeks ago and was originally expected to last 95 days.
For any Roaring Fork Valley teams needing to get through Glenwood in order to make a game as well as teams trying to get to Basalt or Aspen, learning to manage the construction in Glenwood is going to be part of the equation this fall.
“It’s a complicated situation, but a simple math problem. We just have to leave earlier. That’s the solution,” said Aspen High School Athletic Director Martha Richards. “And that will involve the kids missing more school, and that will also then require everyone in our academic community, all of our teachers, all of the tutors, all of the parents, everyone really in the Aspen community, being really supportive of these kids.”
The AHS football team hasn’t had to deal with getting through Glenwood yet. The Skiers stayed home for their season opener on Friday, an 80-50 win over Middle Park. The team will foray north for the first time Friday when it heads to Denver for a Saturday noon game against Arvada.
Leaving a day early means the Skiers won’t have to fret too much over possible delays, and it will give them a good feeling for what travel will be like later in the season. After Arvada, AHS has road games at Cedaredge, Grand Valley, Coal Ridge and Steamboat Springs.
“It is scary to think about how we’d have to leave two to three hours earlier than you would and you are pulling kids out of class,” AHS football coach Karson Pike said. “The administration has done a great job of notifying the faculty and we are all working with each other. This is reality. We have a lot of kids that play sports, but we’ll see how best we can mitigate it.”
So far, the Glenwood Springs bridge project has had only minor impacts on area athletics. The AHS boys golf team hosted a small tournament at Aspen Golf Club last week, with many teams opting to steer clear of Glenwood and play in other tournaments instead. Most of those teams were long committed to the other tournaments, so the bridge project was not a direct factor in them not coming to Aspen, but it also left them little incentive to want to change their plans.
Two of the teams that came — Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain — combined both of their teams onto one bus to make the trek to Aspen.
“They left an hour earlier to get here and got here right on time,” Aspen golf coach Mary Woulfe said. “The bridge thing, it’s definitely an impact, but it’s good to see people cooperating and getting things going.”
While longer from a mileage standpoint than getting on Interstate 70, many area teams plan to use Highway 133 and McClure Pass as an alternative when heading west. The benefits include being able to time their arrival more accurately, as going through Glenwood can possibly come with unplanned delays.
This will cost the schools extra money, as more time on the road means paying drivers for the extra time behind the wheel, as well as the extra fuel costs. But the added cost isn’t expected to add up to much in the long run.
“Everything adds up, … it’s an amount. I don’t think it’s huge, but there’s a factor there,” said Gary Vavra, the director of transportation and facilities for the Aspen School District. “It’ll be great (when the bridge is finished). I hope it doesn’t go beyond the expected time frame.”
Vavra said the current plan is to leave about an hour ahead of schedule to each road game for all sports. It’s not ideal for anyone, and will mean less time in the classroom for the student-athletes. But it’s all a necessity over the next few months for area teams that want to be competitive.
“If we are going to play sports, we need to give them a chance to win,” Richards said. “Which means we can’t come in wheels smoking and hop out with no time to warm up. If we are going to play, we are going to get them there in a time frame where we can be competitive, or at least do everything in our power to do that.”
It would be easy enough to quantify long-distance adventures in Snowmass Village by the usual stats and figures: 90-plus miles of singletrack and dirt roads, four core endurance races every summer, infinite route combinations no more than a few hundred yards from the nearest parking spot or bus stop. But there’s another metric worth clocking too: Smiles per hour.
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