Town adds money to fund Spring Back to Vail, mulling boost for GoPro Mountain Games
Spring Back to Vail will become a ticketed event featuring A-list talent
- Vail’s 2020 budget includes $550,000 for Spring Back to Vail, an increase of $200,000. That money is coming from the town’s general fund.
- The 2020 budget moves town funding of the GoPro Mountain Games from the Commission on Special Events to the general fund. The amount of funding will be negotiated between the Vail Valley Foundation and town officials.
The town of Vail’s 2020 budget includes an increase in funding for Spring Back, with the idea of hosting “A list” talent performing in ticketed concerts. The past several events have had free admission.
Vail Town Council member Jenn Bruno said the idea for music from leading performers returns Spring Back to its original intent. The festival “was an important destination driver” for several years before evolving into free concerts with more town support and less support from Vail Resorts.
Bruno, who, with her husband, Luca, owns a pair of clothing stores in Vail, said she’s a fan of the old format.
An April festival that brings people to stay and play in town is helpful in a month when hotel occupancy could use a boost.
Tickets = accountability
Beyond the attraction of top talent, Bruno said having a ticketed event brings a kind of accountability to the event.
“When it’s free, people can change their plans at the last minute,” she said. People who buy tickets are more likely to show up.
While there’s a lot of work even with free concerts, ramping up to a full-blown concert event requires even more effort.
Highline Sports & Entertainment produces a lot of events in Vail and elsewhere. That company will continue to run the Spring Back events in Vail.
Highline partner James Deighan said his company is already looking for acts for the 2020 festival. Deighan didn’t want to mention any names, but said the definition of “top tier” acts are those that would normally play venues including Red Rocks, Fiddler’s Green and the Pepsi Center in the Denver area.
Highline has produced Spring Back going back to its first days as a ticketed event. He said that back in those days, bringing acts such as Snoop Dogg and Kid Rock to Vail at the height of their popularity were “very successful.”
But artists at that level take a lot of effort to book into Vail.
“We’re contacting them on a daily basis,” Deighan said. It requires understanding both touring and recording schedules. And even with careful planning and scheduling, things sometimes fall through.
Deighan recalled that Foo Fighters were booked for one of the ticketed shows a number of years ago. Five weeks before the show, band founder Dave Grohl backed out of the appearance due to a family commitment.
Given that shows are booked months in advance, that left Deighan scrambling. That scrambling included a flight to Detroit and a personal appeal to Kid Rock’s manager. Kid Rock soon was on the bill instead of Foo Fighters.
While the town has boosted its funding, Deighan said even $500,000 “isn’t a third” of the budget required for a show with top-level talent. The rest of the budget is filled in through sponsors and ticket sales.
Bruno said while tickets will be sold, it won’t cost as much to see an act in Vail as it does at, say, Red Rocks.
A Mountain Games boost?
Later in 2020, the town and the Vail Valley Foundation are negotiating to determine whether the GoPro Mountain Games will receive a funding boost.
The town put $70,000 into the games in 2018. The 2020 budget has $140,000 set aside for the games, but negotiations aren’t yet completed for how much the town will spend.
What the town did, though, was move funding from the Commission on Special Events’ annual budget to the town’s general fund and the pot of money set aside for “iconic” events. That means the GoPro Mountain Games won’t have to apply every year for a portion of the town’s special events funding.
Tom Boyd of the Vail Valley Foundation said the town’s contribution to the games is only a small part of the event’s budget. But, he added, additional funding, from all the event’s sponsors, could be used to spread out the GoPro Mountain Games’ impact on the town’s economy.
The event fills the town on Friday and Saturday. Boyd said the idea is to expand events and other activities to draw more people on Thursday and Sunday of that weekend.
“We’re trying to level up what we’re doing,” Boyd said. “Our vision is to improve the quality of the experience.”
Boyd said the foundation’s goal is to “have a really good experience” all four days of the GoPro Mountain Games, and from the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater all the way to Lionshead.
Vail was a pioneer in both April festivals and outdoor adventure events, and both Deighan and Boyd said the GoPro Mountain Games and Spring Back have been used as models in other resorts.
“We want to maintain our position in the forefront of this space,” Boyd said.
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