Jazz Aspen Snowmass wants $250K to stay put
SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Jazz Aspen Snowmass will celebrate the 20th anniversary Labor Day Festival in its traditional Snowmass Village venue if the town agrees to spend $250,000 to become its primary sponsor. Otherwise, Snowmass Village risks losing the event – which costs about $2.3 million annually to produce – to Buttermilk now and in the future.The news, delivered at Monday’s Snowmass Village Town Council meeting, seemed to come as a surprise to elected officials who had met with Jazz Aspen Snowmass managers last week. But priorities apparently changed following a weekend JAS board meeting in which the nonprofit’s financial realities took the forefront.”We are a year-to-year organization,” JAS Festival Director Joe Lang told council, adding that the nonprofit has no endowment, “no cushion to fall back on.” It is also now without a title sponsor, after Calamos, an investment firm, didn’t renew its option following the 2007 music season.The Labor Day Festival offers the best opportunity for growth in ticket sales, JAS believes. But constrained by a capacity far below the 15,000 needed to draw “marquee” acts, the Snowmass site, while spectacular in setting, is squeezed by Brush Creek Road and the golf course. Including staff, it can accommodate about 11,000 people, based upon recommendations from the police and fire departments.On the other hand, the Buttermilk venue has accommodated 20,000 people for the Winter X Games. It also had a trial as a JAS venue in 2002, when the Snowmass golf course was being renovated.The thinking is that Snowmass could benefit in more “heads on beds” if the festival grows to the levels that some predict, as Labor Day weekend is often close to capacity in Aspen.”We feel that [by] moving, in the end, we can up the occupancy level [in the village],” said JAS’s chief operating officer, Marc Breslin. He said a growth in occupancy of between 5 and 10 percent could realistically “happen if the acts that we want will come.”The majority of the Town Council does not want to lose the event, but not everyone thinks a sponsorship of $100,000 more than budgeted is the best use of funds right now. That’s weighed against the potential cost of losing yet another signature “Snowmass event,” as has happened in recent years with Suzuki music, Ballet West summer school and, most painfully, the Food & Wine Magazine Classic.”Think of the cost to the community if we lose Jazz Aspen Snowmass,” said Councilman Arnie Mordkin, during one of his more measured moments at the meeting.The city of Aspen gives JAS an annual grant of $35,000, which prompted Councilwoman Markey Butler to ask, “Then why is it called Jazz Aspen?” She was told that it’s because that’s where 95 percent of the organization’s patrons live.The Aspen Skiing Co. is not an uninvolved bystander in this issue.”Our wish is for the festival to remain in Snowmass,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “If that doesn’t happen, the only way we would be open to having it at Buttermilk is if there’s community support for the move.”email@example.com
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