Colorado Classic crowds ‘underperformed,’ but exposure good for the town, Vail officials and business owners say
A funny story
Even with live TV, there’s a slight delay from camera to screen. Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said his two Vail shop managers sort of figured out the length of that delay while they were watching the circuit race on Thursday, Aug. 16.
“They’d go out as the lap came by, then go back inside to see if they could see themselves on TV,” Brumbaugh said.
They did, a time or two.
VAIL — Big events come from big ideas. But big events often need time to grow.
That may be the case with Vail’s stages of the still-young Colorado Classic bicycle races. Business owners and town officials this week said the crowds weren’t as big as expected.
“Business was bad,” Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said of activity at that business’ Vail Village location. Still, he added, there seemed to be plenty of people in the Village, and his friends in the restaurant industry seemed to be doing brisk business.
The same was true at the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead Village. There, general manager Matt Carroll reported “very little business” at that shop on Thursday, Aug. 16, the day of the circuit race through Vail’s streets.
“It was about a quarter of our business the day before and the day after,” Carroll said.
In an interview before the circuit race, Carroll said he was concerned that closing the Lionshead Village parking structure to in-and-out traffic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 16 would affect foot traffic in that part of town. That seems to have happened, he said.
“The lack of access to Lionshead needs to be addressed” in the future, Carroll said.
On the other hand, both Carroll and Brumbaugh said the races brought valuable exposure for Vail.
The helicopter shots of Vail through both the Aug. 16 circuit race and the time trial up Vail Pass on Friday, Aug. 17, showed the town in a great light, Carroll said.
“I give it a nine out of 10 for exposure,” Brumbaugh said.
At the Vail Town Council’s morning retreat on Tuesday, Aug. 21, council member Greg Moffet said the live TV coverage — carried in prime time in Europe on EuroSport 1, that continent’s leading sports channel — was “a two-hour commercial for Vail.”
Brumbaugh and Carroll agreed with that statement. In fact, Brumbaugh said he’d gladly trade a bad weekend of business for the kind of exposure the races brought to town.
Still, Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno stated flatly that race attendance “underperformed” in terms of attendance.
Just what that attendance was won’t be known for a couple of weeks. The Vail Valley Foundation — the local organizing group for the races — contracts with a third party to determine event attendance for everything from World Cup ski racing to the GoPro Mountain Games. The same firm was hired for the Colorado Classic.
Foundation Director of Public Relations and Communications Tom Boyd said the spectator numbers, along with numbers from live streaming and TV coverage of the races, will tell an accurate story about the races’ impacts.
While acknowledging that the races are being viewed as not exactly successful, Boyd noted that it’s hard to set expectations for the first year of any event.
“We’ve heard a lot of anecdotal information, but we have to know what (people in town) thought the crowds were going to be,” Boyd said.
Boyd acknowledged that there may have been some mixed messages about getting into and out of town for the races.
The town of Vail shut down streets in much of the town on the south side of Interstate 70.
“We needed people to be aware of road closures … but it’s also hard to say, ‘hey, we’re closing the roads, come on in,’” he said. “We could have done a better job communicating just how easy it was to get into town.”
Boyd also noted that this was the Colorado Classic’s first time in Vail. In 2002, the then-Teva Mountain games drew 250 competitors and about 4,000 spectators. Spectator numbers for this year’s Mountain Games approached 80,000 for all events.
Still, Bruno said the Vail Town Council will have some hard questions for Foundation representatives when it comes time to fund the 2019 Colorado Classic.
For the initial year in Vail, the town put up $310,000 in cash, along with another $65,000 in in-kind services, including police and fire protection and traffic control.
For the 2019 edition, Bruno said she wants to see a marketing plan, along with suggestions for improvements.
“When events underperform … we hold people accountable,” Bruno said. “We need to look at what happened.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com and 970-748-2930.