Members of Aspen’s Commercial Core and Lodging Commission are seeking a five-year agreement for a German Christmas market in Wagner Park starting in December 2014.
The market would be modeled after Christkindlmarket Chicago, a monthlong event where Chicagoans feast on bratwurst, drink spiced wine and purchase German-made Christmas ornaments. Commissioner Bill Dinsmoor visited Chicago this past month, and on Wednesday he briefed the commission about the trip.
Maren Biester, who has been organizing Christkindlmarket since 1996, told Dinsmoor that the event is significantly profitable. With the purchase of a $7 boot-shaped mug, market-goers can drink gluhwein while they walk through the market. Profit for each mug is about $2, and Biester orders close to 1 million each year.
“Want me to do the math for you?” Dinsmoor asked the commission.
Because Biester anticipates running in the red for the first few years in Aspen, she would need a multi-year agreement from the city, Dinsmoor said, adding that the only feasible location for the market is Wagner Park or the adjacent mall area.
In Chicago, because of the frigid cold, a lot of energy is used to heat the tents at Christkindlmarket. The total power supply is 22,000 amps, provided by four 400-amp circuits and three 200-amp circuits. Hearing that, the commission agreed that power supply will be an obstacle for a market in Aspen.
Wagner Park currently has three 200-amp panels, though the city plans to triple that number this summer with a renovation project. Dinsmoor said it might be possible to offset the park supply by adding infrared heaters.
Dan Nelson, the Parks Department’s downtown coordinator, who was at the meeting, said the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen requires vendor-supplied generators in addition to the park’s power supply. By tripling the amount of power, which will occur after the 2014 Food & Wine, the park will remove the need for exterior energy sources, Nelson said.
Biester’s Chicago event attracts some of biggest names in German commerce, including Deutsche Bank, Siemens Bank and Lufthansa Airlines. Dinsmoor said those names speak to the authenticity of the market.
While German tourists don’t travel to the Chicago event, Dinsmoor said they might make the trip to Aspen because of its ski-town identity. Commissioner Fred Ayarza agreed, saying he sees an incredible amount of upside for a market here.
“This could be a bigger and better thing than, or equal to, our Saturday Market,” Commissioner Terry Butler said.
The commission also debated which entity would serve as marketing partner for the event. There have been talks with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, but as the meeting progressed, it was apparent the commission will be looking for alternatives. Commissioner Hana Pevny, a former ACRA president, said ACRA has a “very defined marketing budget,” one that wouldn’t allow the German market to become a priority.
“Even if they end up doing it, I can tell you, they’re going to be an unwilling participant, and it’s never going to get the priority of like a Food & Wine,” Pevny said.
Vice Chairman Riley Tippet said he is awaiting a report from ACRA and will deliver it to the commission in the coming days. From there, the group will look to get support from the city’s Special Events Department and, later, City Council.
After the meeting, Dinsmoor said, “Relying on snow to answer our visitor-destination problem is not going to do it,” he said. “We’ve had great snow since Thanksgiving, and who’s here? Nobody. It takes more than that.”