Kaaboo Vail application withdrawn
AVON — Backers of the proposed Kaaboo festival have withdrawn their application to hold an event in Vail in August of 2017.
In a press release from the Vail Valley Foundation, which had partnered with promoter Bryan Gordon’s company, foundation CEO Michael Imhof wrote that “the consensus and support we need and that the community deserves will not be able to be realized within a time frame” that allows the festival to be held in 2017.
Imhof also wrote that planning for the event — originally proposed for most of Gerald R. Ford Park — was starting to “trigger economics that were potentially untenable for the project.”
The announcement that promoters were pulling the plug on the Vail event was sudden. A public meeting about the festival during the Vail Town’s Council’s June 7 evening meeting didn’t reveal any obvious problems, with Imhof and Gordon both talking about planning for the event.
Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler did give council members a fairly long list of potential problems that would need to be addressed before a vote on a special use permit for Ford Park.
Zemler said the town and promoters would have to come to agreements on the number of days the park would be out of commission for other users and financial responsibilities, as well as a better understanding of Kaaboo’s economic impact on the town. In order for town officials to get a better idea of what was proposed, Zemler asked that the foundation and Kaaboo bring a fully-developed application to the town.
The foundation had been working with Gordon since 2015 on a plan to bring the idea of Kaaboo to Vail from its original home in Del Mar, California. In few public meetings during the past several weeks, Imhof and Gordon had touted Kaaboo as a way to bring a diverse, upscale audience to Vail for three days of concerts, art, comedy and food.
While the event proposal had already passed muster with the Vail Commission on Special Events, plans for the festival had drawn criticism from some Vail residents who worried about potential problems with parking and lodging for an event expected to draw as many as 15,000 people in its first year, and as many as 30,000 within a few years. Residents also worried about the festival’s potential effects on the athletic fields at Ford Park, as well as how the event would affect current users of the fields, the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens and the Vail Nature Center.
In a press release, Gordon wrote that he was disappointed that the festival won’t happen in Vail. But, he wrote, “we want, with each Kaaboo project that we launch, to ensure we reach a wide and deep consensus with our host community.”
Gordon wrote that his company is now focused on the Del Mar event, set for September of this year, as well as finding another site for a second Kaaboo event in 2017.
After the announcement, council member Dick Cleveland said he wasn’t terribly surprised that the application had been withdrawn. Town Manager Stan Zemler said he wasn’t particularly surprised, either, but added that promoters had timelines they needed to meet.
Given the town’s desire for a full examination of all the potential problems and benefits, the application may simply have run out of time for a 2017 festival to be a real possibility.
‘Problems weren’t insurmountable’
While there was a lot of work to do on the town’s side, Cleveland said he was open to exploring the idea of the festival in Vail.
“The concept had some real possibilities,” Cleveland said. “The problems weren’t insurmountable.”
Cleveland echoed Zemler’s remarks about the timing of the application, adding that starting work now on a 2018 event might have made more sense.
“I think the time frame was unrealistic,” Cleveland said. “Pulling this off in 2017 would have been close.”
But, Cleveland added, an application for an event of the size proposed by Kaaboo requires a lot of public input.
Reached while traveling, council member Greg Moffet said he’s disappointed that Kaaboo appears to be kaput.
“We’ve always wanted something like Jazz Aspen Snowmass and this was it,” Moffet said. “There were problems to be overcome, but we could have done that.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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