Vail’s 2015 event spending: $1 million
By the numbers
$1 million: Total 2015 spending by the Vail Commission on Special Events.
$49,900: Money dedicated to attendance surveys.
36: Number of events funded.
VAIL — From bluegrass in Lionshead to youth soccer in Ford Park and everywhere in between, events have during the past few years become a crucial part of the resort economy. Vail in 2015 will spend just more than $1 million to support and grow those events.
The Vail Commission on Special Events every year receives requests from promoters who want to bring events to Vail. Some turn into long-running staples on the calendar. Some events come and go — who remembers the Vail Soul Music Festival?
In a recent presentation to the Vail Town Council, commission chairman Barry Davis outlined some of the highlights for the town’s 2015 event calendar.
Some events received a bit of a boost for 2015. The Vail Film Festival — scheduled for March 26-29 — had requested $35,000, but received $50,000. That bump was the subject of a lot of discussion, Davis said, and came with something of an ultimatum.
“That’s an event that’s struggled because it’s been under-funded,” Davis said. “They deserve another chance, and we want to give them the tools they need. Next year, you’ll either see similar or no funding.”
Other events, such as the Vail Summer Bluegrass Concert Series, held Wednesday evenings in Lionshead, have been immediate hits.
Davis said the series’ initial success allowed promoters to find sponsorships to continue the concerts.
But why does the town fund events?
All in the Taxes
Vail and other Colorado resort towns depend on sales taxes to fund municipal services. Sales taxes in resorts come mostly from visitors. The more visitors, the better the sales tax collections. The events formula has worked well. While winter still accounts for about 70 percent of all of Vail’s sales tax revenue, summer collections have set records for the past few years. That’s due largely to events.
The commission’s budget no longer funds big events such as the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Vail Dance Festival or the town’s Fourth of July fireworks. That leaves the board with money to both continue helping long-running events such as the Vail Lacrosse Shootout and new projects.
New on the 2015 calendar is a mountain bike festival in late September. The September events calendar is already full, with everything from automotive exhibits to Gourmet on Gore. But a new cycling event will be welcome in a year when the USA Pro Cycling Challenge isn’t bringing its August road show to the valley.
The calendar is pretty light in May, as you’d expect. And this year’s funding schedule doesn’t include anything for a Memorial Day event.
While summer starts that holiday weekend on most unofficial tourism calendars, the weekend in Vail has always been tricky, due in large part to the fact the weather can be wildly unpredictable. For 2015, there’s no Memorial Day event on Vail’s calendar.
“Someone out there has a really great idea that’s a value for us,” Davis said. “We’re extremely open to ideas.”
Council member Greg Moffet said an event like the Tough Mudder adventure races would be a good fit. But that event has become too expensive, Moffet said.
“We need help from somebody smarter than us,” to answer the Memorial Day question, Moffet added.
Davis agreed, but added that building a Memorial Day event will take more than simply spending money.
While a $1 million budget for events sounds big — and it is, in most places — carving that pie into 36 pieces leaves some small slices. Town officials have long asked for good attendance counts to make sure the funding pie is sliced as effectively as possible.
That’s why, after years of relying primarily on promoters, the commission in 2015 will spend nearly $50,000 to get a better idea of how many people come to Vail for different events.
Like additional funding for the film festival, Davis said putting money into studying attendance was strongly debated. And $50,000 out of a $1 million budget is money that could have gone to other uses.
“We want to spend on programming, but we want to be accountable, too,” Davis said.
Council members Jenn Bruno and Dave Chapin, both former special event commission members, praised the decision.
“We spent years debating this, but we were never willing to give up event money,” Bruno said.
Council member Margaret Rogers also said good attendance numbers are essential if the town is going to learn what sort of return it gets on events it supports.
“That’s a critical move to get good analytics,” Rogers said. “We really want to see the overall impact.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and@scottnmiller.