$9M to bring visitors to Vail? | AspenTimes.com

$9M to bring visitors to Vail?

Melanie Wong
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colo. ” How can $9.5 million be used to bring more visitors to Vail, Colorado? It’s a question Vail businesses and leaders are asking as they discuss what to do with funds left over from a failed conference center project.

The money might go toward its original intent ” a conference center that would bring people to Vail in the slower spring and fall seasons ” if plans for such a facility at the Lionshead garage redevelopment project or Ever Vail, a village planned for west Lionshead, are successful.

Town staff will present the Vail Town Council with options for the money sometime in December. Any new uses for the funds will have to be approved by a public vote. A ballot question could be presented to Vail voters as soon as next November, or the town could hold a special election.

“It’s contemplated as a possibility for next year,” said Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler of the ballot question. “It has not been decided.”

The money was collected over three years from a lodging fee and a sales tax approved by voters. The town went back to voters after it became clear that more money would be needed, and residents did not reapprove the taxes.

Suggestions include using the money for a Vail recreation center, adding to the town’s existing private gyms, or putting it in an endowment fund that could be used for special events or projects.

However, many in the hospitality business agree that they want to see the money used for it’s original intent ” getting “heads in beds,” said Montaneros Lodge General Manager Keith Odza, chairman of the Vail Valley Partnership Lodging Committee.

He’d like to see the money be used to build something concrete, such as some sort of facility.

Putting the money toward a conference center or to enhance any centers that might be part of a new project would still be optimal, Odza said.

“This was really meant to get heads in beds, to get people in town. That’s why we want to keep it in that vein,” he said.

Vail Mayor Dick Cleveland said that after hearing comments such as Odza’s, he is open to most uses of the money as long as it helps bring people to town.

“We’ve had lot of input from the lodging community. They have a very limited use in their mind,” he said. “Still, we’re going to take a lot of public input on this.”

Antler’s General Manager Rob LeVine agreed he wanted to see the money invested in a way that will attract tourists in the long-term.

An attraction such as a conference center, or a learning center, would build the town’s tourist base and bring people into town for reasons other than a ski vacation, he said.

Marketing analysts have suggested creating “transformative vacations” where people come for an experience, such as a “well-being” retreat or a mountain biking camp, LeVine said.

“We want something that’s not just the same old stuff,” he said. “We want something lasting ” not just marketing and advertising.”

mwong@vaildaily.com


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