Vail making changes to events funding model
Idea is to spread out events during periods of need
The town of Vail is taking more of a “what’s in it for me?” approach to event funding.
The town currently spends about $2.5 million per year on events big and small, all with the intent of bringing more guests to town. The system works pretty well, but the funding model is going to shift, if not change.
There will still be big events partially funded by the town’s general fund, and other events vetted and aided through the Vail Commission on Special Events.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar recently told the Vail Town Council that the system going forward will look at the calendar and when events would best serve the town’s purposes.
Vlaar said town officials can better mitigate event impacts with a greater level of control over when those events occur.
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“Nothing really goes away,” Vlaar said, adding that the new model provides event promoters with a better idea of what the town is looking for, and what other goals officials hope to further.
Vlaar added, “We don’t want to interrupt things too much.”
The changes are driven by a handful of town goals.
The first is complementing the town’s still-developing “destination stewardship” plan, which will work to balance economic development with livability and sustainability.
The other goal is working more toward a “sponsorship” model of event funding. Jeremy Gross of the Vail Economic Development office told council members that those seeking funding in the future will have to meet town-set goals of how an event benefits the town and its residents.
“We’re not just bringing bigger and more,” Town Manager Scott Robson said. “We’re improving the quality of events.”
Those events will be spread out over 12 months working with the town’s Discover Vail website. That site can gather data about visitors and help develop what Vlaar called a “one-to-one” relationship with guests.
Council members seemed impressed with the idea.
Council member Kevin Foley said it’s time for this kind of effort.
“You look at (Labor Day weekend) to see that sometimes we may be at critical mass,” Foley said.
While return on investment is a crucial part of town contributions to events, Mayor Dave Chapin noted that metric isn’t all-important. And, he added, that return may not come in the first year or two of a new event.
But new events, or at least improved tracking, can provide data for the future.
Gross noted that while the bigger funding requests are shifting, the town’s popular “ambient” entertainment is coming out of the events board’s purview. Those events, including music in the village, astronomy nights and family events, were a big in summer 2020 and the following ski season.
Vlaar said that experience gave officials a good idea of when and where those ambient events should be held.
While those smaller events will still be scattered throughout town and across the calendar, Chapin said he favors bigger events focusing on quality over quantity.
“It’s like skiing at Vail,” he said.