SBD/May 2, 2012/Events and Attractions

ESPN Keeps Winter X Games In Aspen For '13-14, While City Hoped For Longer Extension



Aspen has hosted the the Winter X Games for the past 11 years
The Winter X Games will return to Aspen for '13 and '14, "marking the event's 12th and 13th editions" in the city, according to Rick Carroll of the ASPEN TIMES. The renewal of the event “comes after months of negotiating between X Games organizer ESPN and host Skico.” Aspen has hosted the Winter X Games “for the past 11 years, but its contract with ESPN expired after this year's games, which drew 108,000 people" to Buttermilk Mountain over the four days of competition. ESPN began a bidding process “in May 2011 to attract other host cities.” Initially there were those in Aspen “who thought the event wasn't a good fit,” but now the Winter X Games are "seemingly part of Aspen's wintertime fabric.” Carroll notes the Aspen City Council “put up $125,000 to bring the X Games back, a $25,000 increase over its contribution last year.” The Elected Officials Transportation Committee and the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners also “ponied up $100,000 for transit service.” Likewise, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association “committed $150,000 to the cause,” and the Snowmass Village town government “also put up $100,000.” SkiCo VP/Sales & Events John Rigney said that ideally his company “would have preferred a longer-term deal with ESPN.” But he said the event's newly expanded reach created “moving parts that come with launching globally” (ASPEN TIMES, 5/2). Rigney added, “Of course we didn’t want to see this go. It was a little nerve-wracking. But at the end of the day, we wholeheartedly believed that (ESPN) would want the best place (for the event).” In Aspen, Curtis Wackerle notes the Aspen Chamber Resort Association was “not a funding partner in the past.” Rigney said that he “cannot disclose the details of SkiCo’s financial contribution to the event," adding that "it also is increasing.” Hotels and lodges “also contribute to the games in the form of free or discounted rooms for X Games personnel.” Rigney said, “This is a huge statement on behalf of the entire Aspen/Snowmass community” (ASPEN DAILY NEWS, 5/2). In Denver, Jason Blevins writes ESPN’s “new global focus” left the network “reticent to commit in Aspen longer term” (DENVER POST, 5/2).

FEELING LEFT OUT: In Vancouver, Gary Kingston writes, “Call it something of a radical X Games invert” as ESPN has “surprisingly passed on Whistler, co-host of the 2010 Olympics and a freeskiing mecca, essentially in favour of some place called Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.” Tourism Whistler President & CEO Barrett Fisher said, "We're very, very disappointed. We hoped they were going to look at three winter and three summer. But in fairness to ESPN, they did say during the process that they could just as easily look at four and two." Fisher said that while ESPN “indicated Whistler put forward a ‘very robust bid, with amazing venues ... and a track record in executing large-scale sporting events,’ there were challenges with the proposed April time slot and in potentially securing global sponsors.” Fisher: "When they weighed all the pros and cons, they felt that an April date might be too late to keep an engaged winter audience.” She added, "Some prospective global sponsors wanted them to look at markets outside of North America. Those two things were items that were not within our control" (VANCOUVER SUN, 5/2).
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