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Vail businesses see boost from Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships

VAIL — It was a busy week at the Manor Vail Lodge, and General Manager Bob McCleary couldn’t be happier.

The Manor Vail is across the street from Golden Peak, the site of the Burton US Open Snowboarding Championships, which wrapped Saturday. Therefore, it was home base for company officials, media, athletes and others.

“Burton is a good, strong bump in our business,” McCleary said, adding that bump goes from rooms to the bar to the restaurant to catering at the lodge.

Those guests are more than welcome.

“They’re good people; they bring good energy to the property,” McCleary said. “The (other) guests that are here love it.”

Just to the west of Vail Village, the Evergreen Lodge also welcomed a number of people associated with the event.

Evergreen General Manager Brian Butts said about half of that lodge’s rooms had been reserved by Burton employees, sales representatives and others. Between those guests and others coming into town, Butts said the Evergreen had one room available for Thursday, one for Friday and none for Saturday, the last day of the event.

Looking at his own reservations and the action already in Vail, Butts proclaimed it a big visitor weekend. And people who stay in Vail dine and shop in town, too.

Snowboarding royalty in town

The big crowds weren’t limited to the hotels and the halfpipe. The Colorado Snowsports Museum on Wednesday hosted the Chill fundraiser party hosted by Jake and Donna Burton.

Museum director Jen Mason said the party packed the museum. And, she added, she’s seen some younger people taking daytime strolls around the facility.

Mason said the US Open event has continued a busy winter for the museum. But, she added, “it feels like it’s busy” in Vail Village.

Across Meadow Drive from the museum, Buzz Schleper, of Buzz’s Boards, said this year’s US Open crowds seemed more substantial than the past couple of years, adding that a good snow year has put a lot of people into Vail throughout the winter.

“People are in town, people are shopping, and it’s great,” Schleper said.

The US Open is a big venture, and the town of Vail supports it financially. For the 2019 event, the town put $490,000 into the event.

Mason, who’s also a member of the Vail Town Council, said the town gets a good return on its money.

“(The US Open) isn’t just an event,” Mason said, adding that some of the industry’s top buyers and salespeople are in town this week. That helps Vail’s international reputation as a snowboarding destination, she said. She added, people in the next generation of snowsports enthusiasts often ride. The US Open is a good way to introduce those people to Vail.

While the US Open is good for business, not everyone sees a direct benefit.

At the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail Village, Maggie Rey said that business doesn’t see an uptick from the snowboard crowd.

While the US Open tends to bring more people to Vail, not many of those people are shopping for fine art while they’re here.

“In general, it’s really kind of status quo,” Rey said. “But we enjoy it, we like to participate … it’s very fun to have here.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

Vail Valley commercial property is in pretty short supply

EAGLE COUNTY — We all know Vail is an economic powerhouse. If you need proof, just look at the retail vacancy rate in town: .45 percent.

That’s right, less than .5 percent of Vail’s retail space was vacant in 2018, according to a report from NAI Mountain Commercial. Vacancies are low in the rest of the valley as well: 2.6 percent for Eagle-Vail, Avon, Beaver Creek and Edwards and 2.2 percent for Eagle and Gypsum.

The rate in Denver was 5.2 percent in 2018.

The Vail vacancy rate is also driving rent increases in town. While commercial rent in the rest of the valley is still lower than the peaks seen in 2007, for the past few years rent in Vail has surpassed that high-water mark from the previous decade.

‘No vacancy’

“There’s virtually no vacancy (in Vail),” NAI Mountain Commercial Vice President and managing broker Erich Schmidt said.

In fact, he said, businesses rarely move out of prime spots in Vail. When that happens, someone new often comes in before anyone can hang a “for rent” sign.

Rental rates for prime space in Vail Village can approach $120 per square foot. In Lionshead Village, prime space can be as high as $65 per square foot.

The story is different in the rest of the valley. While vacancy rates are low, there are spaces lingering on the market.

Avon, in particular, has some significant spaces available, including the site of the former Montana’s and Outback restaurants, as well as the space formerly occupied by Office Depot.

Schmidt said those larger spaces will be hard to fill.

“When we get above 2,000 to 2,500 square feet … national retailers aren’t really expanding, and when they are, they’re expanding in metropolitan areas,” Schmidt said.

Smaller spaces are also difficult, due to factors including the changing retail environment, the cost of space and difficulty finding employees.

Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said members of the regional chamber of commerce are telling him that they’re mostly standing pat in the spaces they have now.

Leasing’s picking up

But, Schmidt said, his firm has seen an uptick in leasing interest and activity in the past few weeks.

“Leasing always picks up as we go to spring — especially in a strong ski year,” Schmidt said. “We’ve seen a pickup in activity, especially in Traer Creek Plaza (in Avon), both for retail and office space.”

Interest in Edwards continues to be strong, but Schmidt said there isn’t a lot of space available.

The other side of the retail coin is that UPS has expanded its operation in Gypsum, and now holds about 40,000 square feet of warehouse space near the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Other warehouse and commercial space is also being leased or sold in the western part of the valley.

Those businesses are often looking for space with tall garage doors. Some new building is taking place in those areas, but not a lot, Schmidt said.

The relative lack of available space, as well as the high cost of construction, also seems to be driving prices when a commercial property comes up for sale. Schmidt said another driver is businesses relocating from Denver or the Front Range to the Western Slope.

The biggest of those sales in 2018 was the sale of the West Vail Mall. That sale — for $14 million — closed in the fourth quarter of the year. A pair of sales — of the separately-sold A and B buildings of the Northstar Center in Edwards, also topped $14 million. Another sale, of a roughly 500 square foot retail space in the Lodge at Vail, topped $1 million. That’s about $2,000 per square foot. According to data from Land Title Guarantee Co., 2018’s highest price per square foot for residential property was a unit in Solaris that sold for $3,095 per square foot.

The cost to rent, buy or build, combined with an employee shortage, is crimping potential economic growth in the valley, Romer said.

“It’s a perfect storm of challenges in an economy that’s overall doing pretty well,” he said.

Vail Daily Business editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

Renowned artist Ron Hicks to display a new type of art in Vail

Ron Hicks will display his work at Vail International Gallery from Saturday, Feb. 16, to March 2.

Ron Hicks grew up in an artistic household. His mother attended art classes, and he’d spend time pouring over her textbooks, and once he got to school, his teacher took special note of his talent and encouraged him to enter contests, leading him to win scholarships to the Columbus College of Art and Design.

Hicks’ art would eventually become known for depicting realistic scenes, snapshots of everyday life — a couple kissing, chefs working in a kitchen, a conductor leading his orchestra.

However recently, Hicks has taken a more abstract approach to his art, which he’ll be displaying at Vail International Gallery beginning on Saturday, Feb. 16.

“I’m trying to sort of play with abstract, non-objective worlds and realism, to strike a harmonious balance between disciplines and place them on canvas or boards I paint on,” Hicks said. “I’m really concentrating on shape, texture and edges, more so than more tangible things in previous works.”

The new art style comes from Hicks’ desire to paint for himself. His previous work began as a collaboration, in which he’d pass a piece back and forth with another artist until they had a complete work of art. He continued to paint in the style of the project. Eventually, however, Hicks chose to take a turn and paint for himself.

Ron Hicks’ new body of work was inspired by his desire to create art for himself, rather than for the masses.

“I’m open and free to express myself in this way, and I hope to keep it as pure as I can,” Hicks said. “I’m doing it for myself as opposed the masses.”

Hicks has had a 12-year relationship with Vail International Gallery, displaying art since the gallery’s beginning, thanks to President and co-founder of the gallery Marc LeVarn’s affinity for his work.

“We knew going in that he was an artist that we wanted to feature,” LeVarn said.

Although the work that will be on display is different than what LeVarn has displayed before, he has no concern about the exhibit.

“We’re really excited about this new style for Ron,” said LeVarn. “He has succeeded in evolving in a way that’s really successful visually and artistically, the emotional content of the paintings is really powerful.”

Catch Hicks art at Vail International Gallery between Saturday, Feb. 16, and March 2. Hicks will be present to discuss his work from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16. His pieces will be for sale throughout the exhibition.

Arts & Entertainment Editor Nate Day can be reached at nday@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2932.