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Hockey scores big in local economy

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

For a resort that is deep in the off-season doldrums, Aspen has looked awfully busy for the past few weekends.

Blame hockey. Or, thank hockey.

Aspen Junior Hockey’s Fall Face-Off wrapped up three weekends of tournament play on Sunday that brought 97 teams from around Colorado and beyond to town over the course of the event. Hotels that would otherwise be empty or nearly so were full. So were some restaurants.

The number of participating teams more than doubled this year, as the 10th annual tournament monopolized both the Aspen Ice Garden and the new rink at the Aspen Recreation Center.

Last year, the tourney hosted 32 teams with just one sheet of ice at its disposal, according to tournament director Tim Ware. He had to turn away 13 teams last year. This year, Aspen could schedule enough games on two sheets of ice to accommodate every team that applied except one, Ware said.

On Saturdays, play began at 6 a.m. and didn’t wrap up until after midnight. The Aspen Skating Club graciously gave up its weekend ice time to help make it possible, he said.

Altogether, the event brought an estimated 1,300 to 1,500 people to town over the three weekends, including the boys and girls who came to play hockey and their families.

“We had two weekends when we were 80, 90 percent full, when we would have been dead,” said Susan Melville, whose family runs the Mountain Chalet. “Almost every room was parents and kids.”

“It has been a huge plus ” we’ve been full for the last three weekends in a row,” added Peter MacKellar, office manager at the Limelite Lodge.

The Limelite is among the lodges and hotels in town that offer discounted rates for the hockey tournament participants. In the past, though, some teams booked rooms only to find they couldn’t get into the tourney. The lodge wound up with cancellations instead of occupied rooms, MacKellar said.

This year, with the tournament able to host just about every team that applied to enter, the Limelite and its sister lodge, the Deep Powder, didn’t see any of those cancellations, he said. Instead, all 70 rooms in the combined lodges were filled.

The Aspen Square Hotel filled up for two of the three weekends and was plenty busy on the third one, reported Warren Klug, general manager.

“They certainly spent money in some of the restaurants,” he added.

Boogie’s Diner proved a popular choice with the hockey crowd.

The restaurant saw some $10,000 worth of additional business as a result of this year’s tournament, estimated Harley Stumbaugh, a manager at Boogie’s.

On the second weekend of the tournament, for example, Boogie’s did $9,000 worth of business on a Saturday, compared to $3,000 on the same Saturday a year ago. All three weekends produced similar gains, he said.

“It definitely did boost our business for these last three weekends,” Stumbaugh said.

Local businesses weren’t the only winners during the tournament.

Aspen’s Midget Miners, made up of 15- and 16-year-old boys, won the championship in their age group, according to Ware. The U-19 and U-14 girls’ teams both made it to the championship games on Sunday, though both were defeated. The U-19 squad lost in a shootout.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]


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