Authorities: Winter X Games crowds caused few problems
January 29, 2014
An estimated 48,000 spectators were at the Winter X Games at the foot of Buttermilk Mountain on Saturday, Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan said Sunday.
ESPN, which produces and broadcasts the games, confirmed the figure on Sunday night. The event has been held at Buttermilk since 2002. Last week, a deal was announced that will keep the X Games at the venue through 2019.
Saturday attendance for the Thursday-through-Sunday games has been on the rise in recent years. On Jan. 28, 2012, the crowd was estimated at 45,000. Last year, on Jan. 26, attendance hit 47,000 for the entire day, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Traditionally, more people attend the X Games on Saturday than on the other three days. That was true again this year, with 11,300 spectators on Thursday; 23,200 on Friday; and 27,000 on Sunday, according to ESPN.
Wagner Park had an attendance of 3,500 on Saturday and 4,400 on Sunday for concerts associated with the event, ESPN said.
Despite the crowds, patrons were well-behaved this year, just as they have been for the last few years, local authorities said. Alcohol has been banned at the X Games site since 2008, Ryan said.
“You can’t buy alcohol on site, and you can’t bring in alcohol,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of our problems originate from the over-consumption of alcohol.”
Blair Weyer, spokeswoman for the team of local and state law enforcement personnel working at the X Games site and at affiliated locations such as the Wagner Park concerts and the Brush Creek transportation intercept lot, released statistics Sunday evening showing that only 10 arrests were made at Buttermilk or the intercept lot from Thursday through Saturday. Seven of them occurred on Friday. Sunday’s arrest statistics were not available Sunday night.
At Buttermilk or the intercept lot, there were 29 officially recorded incidents on Thursday, 62 on Friday and 92 on Saturday. The incidents ranged from “citizen assistance” to contacts with people who may have been consuming too much alcohol.
Pitkin County Sherriff’s Office Deputy Jeff Lumsden, who was assigned to the venue on Friday and Saturday, said the scene was fairly normal.
“They were well-behaved,” he said. “We might have had an increase in alcohol contacts later (in the evenings). There was a large crowd on Saturday, and Friday was smaller.”
Ryan said he was at Buttermilk most of the weekend.
“It’s always such a great crowd,” he said. “It’s amazing, the small percentage of issues that we have.”
Again this year, local authorities set up an acute-intoxication center, or “detox unit” as it is commonly known, at the Rio Grande Meeting Room next to the Pitkin County Jail. Statistics on the number of people receiving assistance there were not readily available Sunday.
“They don’t need to be in jail,” he said of the detox-unit patients. “Most of them are not being arrested or ticketed for anything. We just need a place to make sure they can be safe.”
The low numbers of arrests was not the only feel-good story concerning the effects of the X Games. Some local businesses reported a big weekend of sales.
The Little Nell and Limelight hotels — 92 and 126 rooms, respectively — were sold out Saturday, according to Sally Spaulding, public relations director for both properties. Both are owned by Aspen Skiing Co.
“There are so many businesses involved in X Games these days, and we get a lot of that corporate business,” she said. “X Games for us is a huge business mark for the winter months.”
The Ajax Tavern, adjacent to The Little Nell, had a great weekend of business, Spaulding said. Element 47, the upscale restaurant inside the hotel, is typically more quiet during the X Games, she added.
At Ryno’s Pies and Pints, at the corner of the Cooper Avenue pedestrian mall and South Galena Street, on Sunday afternoon, manager Alex Fichera said the bar was so busy she didn’t have much time to talk about the impact of the X Games.
“Everything has been great,” she said. “No major problems. It’s one of the best weekends we’ve seen all winter.”