What events should Vail fund?
VAIL , Colorado- The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival is worth every penny of town contributions, but the Street Beat winter concerts and the “Premier Impressions” customer service programs have outlived their usefulness.
In working on its 2012 budget Tuesday, the Vail Town Council spent some time going over the financial and “in-kind” contributions the town makes to various events and programs. The list is pretty long, and ranges from big-ticket items – $200,000 for Bravo! – to relatively small ones, such as a $20,000 request from the Vail Chamber and Business Association for the Premier Impressions program, which honors people who provide outstanding customer service over the winter.
Council members were effusive in their praise for Bravo!, the Vail Jazz Festival and other events that bring people to town and help drive sales and lodging tax collections, but less so for a handful of other events.
Town staff had recommended putting $10,000 into Premier Impressions, but council members said the program doesn’t deliver enough value in return for taxpayer dollars.
“I don’t see the program doing what it’s supposed to do,” council member Kim Newbury said, adding that promoting customer service is more a function of how individual businesses train employees than anything a broader program can do.
“It’s had its chance,” council member Susie Tjossem said of the program. “Out of all the people who work in town in the winter there were only 200 people honored last year.”
While council members felt Premier Impressions wasn’t doing enough, a couple of other events that asked for town money were felt to be past their prime.
“I think Street Beat (a winter concert series in Vail Village) is tired,” Mayor Dick Cleveland said.
Other council members agreed.
“It’s become kind of an ambient event, rather than anything someone comes to town for,” Newbury said.
With that in mind, the council agreed to cut the Vail Valley Foundation’s $25,000 request for the winter shows, but boosted funding for the Hot Summer Nights concerts to the full request of $27,500.
When another Foundation request – the annual American Ski Classic – came up, council members repeated the “tired” comment, and quickly decided against the funding request of $5,000.
While going through a long list of requests, the council spent the most time pondering what might be the biggest request – $500,000 for Vail’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Council members balked at the amount, saying they simply don’t know enough about the plans to consider any donation at the moment.
Plans right now call for an 18-month celebration, and organizers are looking at a total budget of more than $3 million.
“I think (the celebration) needs to be short and hard-hitting,” Cleveland said. “It dilutes the message to spread it over 13 or 18 months.”
But council member Kerry Donovan, who is also a member of the planning committee, said the anniversary celebration can be a draw. She said Vail Mountain Marketing Director Adam Sutner – who also worked on Harley-Davidson’s centennial celebration in 2003 – believes a more drawn-out celebration can have a big effect on visits to the resort.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Donovan said.
But council member Margaret Rogers said she wants to see a detailed plan before committing any town money to the anniversary celebration.
“It’s got to be targeted to very specific times of the year,” Cleveland said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or email@example.com.