Vail, seeking an event to fill beds in May, to partially fund MMA at ice arena
How it works
The Vail Commission on Special Events every year takes applications for cultural, recreational and community events. There’s also a pot of money the commission uses for educational and enrichment programs.
Big, “signature” events, including Bravo! Vail, the Vail Dance Festival, the Vail Jazz Festival and the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships, are funded directly by the Vail Town Council.
VAIL — The Vail Commission on Special Events every year funds more than 30 events. Most are instantly recognizable. One of this year’s events is a little different.
The commission in 2018 will spend just less than $1 million — using both business license fee money and funds from the town’s general fund — to help put on events that include the Vail Outlier mountain bike festival, the Taste of Vail spring food and wine classic and the King of the Mountain Volleyball Tournament. Other events include the Vail Arts Festival, the Vail Automotive Classic and Vail-Beaver Creek Restaurant Week.
The commission doesn’t fully fund events but does support those that commission members believe will draw visitors, build a sense of community and support Vail’s brand. The idea is also to keep Vail’s event calendar humming throughout the year.
For May, the commission in 2017 agreed to provide $17,500 to partially fund a mixed martial arts event promoted by the Legacy Fighting Alliance. The event is set for Friday, May 4, at Dobson Ice Arena.
When Vail Town Council members were hammering out the 2018 budget last fall, the idea for a mixed martial arts event raised some eyebrows.
Commission member Rayla Kundolf said there were some raised eyebrows on that seven-member board, too.
But, after some discussion, both the commission and the council agreed to help fund the event.
“There were some questions about it being off-brand,” Kundolf said.
But, she added, the promoters were able to convince commission members.
Popularity, and exposure
First, Kundolf said, mixed martial arts is a popular sport. And, given the number of martial artists and wrestlers in the valley, there would seem to be fans both locally and on the Front Range.
Laura Waniuk, the town’s liaison with the commission, said there are other possible attractions.
The May 4 event will be broadcast live on the AXS TV channel. That channel, owned by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, apparently has a strong following on both TV and social media, Waniuk said. The broadcast will feature video of Vail on the broadcast.
“It’s an aspirational view of Vail,” Waniuk said. “It’s a demographic that’s interesting to us.
Since it’s live, Waniuk said she expects that watch parties will probably be held around the valley.
Then there’s the fact that the event is set for May. That’s been perhaps the slowest business month in Vail since the resort’s earliest days.
If this event is a success, then it could be something to boost business in a slow month, Kundolf said.
“We’ve had music, food, community events (in May) and nothing has stuck,” Kundolf said. The idea for a mixed martial arts event, held inside, has the potential to draw both locals and visitors, she added.
Waniuk added that the May 4 event is “turn-key,” since the Legacy Fighting Alliance produces several live events every year.
And, Waniuk added, Legacy promoter Sven Bean has an attachment to Vail.
“He used to spend winters here with his family,” she said.
Vail Economic Development Manager Mia Vlaar said people who have spent time in town often want to return on business. This is one of those cases, she said.
“There’s tremendous loyalty to the town,” Vlaar said.
Low risk, high reward?
Kundolf noted that Legacy Fighting Alliance had applied to the commission in previous years. The 2017 application was accepted because the promoters were willing to accept more of the financial risk.
But Kundolf said, commission members were told there could be a substantial upside if this event is a success.
“If this works, they may not come back for money any more,” she said.
And, if Dobson is sold out for a Friday night in May, then that’s good news for other businesses in town.
That, she said, is a risk worth taking.
“Sometimes it’s OK to have an offbeat event,” she said. “You never know how it will turn out.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
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