Vail is competing for tournament business |

Vail is competing for tournament business

John Monson
Vail, CO, Colorado

In the spring of 1995, as I was packing up my things to head home after a winter season at Lake Tahoe’s Squaw Valley, I was encouraged by a friend to stick around for the summer and experience Tahoe in “full swing.”

Having grown accustomed to summers back home in the Colorado high country as being markedly mellower than the winters, I decided ” solely in the interest of education ” to spend my summer at the lake. What I witnessed was an impressive transformation of my relatively quiet little ski town into a full-blown, bustling summertime hot spot, and my eyes subsequently were opened to the massive potential of mountain-town summer tourism as a result.

While Tahoe has the lake as a compelling summertime draw, I don’t recall many special events on the calendar. When I think about my summers in Vail, however, I think about vast and varied events that pack the calendar full, from weekly Hot Summer Nights concerts to busy and bustling farmers’ markets, from the Teva Mountain Games to Bravo’s Rochester Philharmonic, from award-winning trail running races and Fourth of July lawn-chair parades to BBQ on Bridge Street and Oktoberfest in Lionshead.

As marketing director for the Vail Recreation District, I think of summers in Vail as Kick It Up 3v3 soccer tournaments that fill the hotels, of LAX Lacrosse Shootouts that give the bars an amped-up shot in the arm and King of the Mountain Volleyball, which sees fun-loving teams descend upon Vail for an extended weekend of party and play. Sporting events have a major impact on our summertime calendars and economy, and working with numerous organizations throughout the valley, we plan to grow them accordingly.

As the old adage “fish where the fish are” encourages, does it not make sense to solicit athletes as tourists to our sports-minded community? The National Association of Sports Commissions provides an outlet for communication between sporting events looking for a venue and the convention and visitor bureaus looking to host them. Representing more than 430 sports organizations and 300 cities, the association has been the industry’s leading network since 1992.

Given that 70 percent of all sporting events are booked through convention and visitors bureaus, the Vail Valley Partnership, working in conjunction with the recreation district, is now the national association’s newest member. The Partnership also has budgeted for a sales manager to solicit, pursue and book sporting events.

We will be attending the Sports Commission Symposium in Omaha, Neb., in April to meet with sports-event decision-makers looking for a place to hold their events, and if all goes well, we’ll bring home leads, interest and bookings.

Why pursue this market? Participatory sporting events constitute a $5.4 billion industry, generating, on average, $300,000 per event.

The Vail Recreation District’s youth services and sports divisions will play an important role, as 63 percent of all events target the 12- to 17-year-old age group, which equates to larger overall numbers since participants come to events with their parents. Conversely, while 55-and-older events represent only 1 percent of the overall market, this age group may spark a resurgence in otherwise declining traditional sports such as slow-pitch softball, a sport that Vail has had much success with in the past in the Labor Day Softball Tournament.

With an anticipated increase in sporting events comes a possible strain on the existing reservation-booking systems, as well as new demands on and availability of field space.

One of many ideas at this early stage would be to reconfigure and open up the Ford Park softball fields to be two regulation-size, multiuse soccer fields capable of accommodating a greater number of activities (including softball), effectively doubling Vail’s attractiveness as an ideal event location.

Once booked, these events will need to be marketed as attractions to draw tourists and participants to visit Vail and enjoy not only the event but also our hiking, biking, golfing, shopping, dining and nightlife.

The Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, a team of local sales and marketing professionals dedicated to growing tourism between May and October, will be instrumental in accomplishing this task. Formed in 1999, the council has been successful in efforts to aid the “Summer Vail” initiatives.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many ski resorts, from Whistler to Tremblant and Mammoth to Snowshoe, and while they’ve all had year-round tourism organizations, not one had a dedicated group only for summer tourism. We’re lucky to have the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council, and I look forward to serving as its newest board member.

John Monson is the marketing director for the Vail Recreation District and a board member on the Vail Local Marketing District Advisory Council.

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