A tourist town needs attractions | AspenTimes.com

A tourist town needs attractions

Roger Marolt
Cluster Phobic

Roger Marolt

Think about the venues Aspen has dedicated to the arts. They've got the Wheeler, the Isis, Benedict Music Hall, Harris Concert Hall, Aspen District Theatre, Black Box Theater, Aspen Music School, Paepcke Auditorium, Belly Up, Theatre Aspen's Tent in the Park, the Red Brick, and the soon-to-be-completed Aspen Art Museum. That's on top of two parks and the knoll of a ski run where they regularly put on outdoor concerts. This is in addition to dozens of bars that frequently host live music. Even many of the churches hold special events. Don't forget the hotel conference rooms that are used for all kinds of big gatherings, either.

And we wonder why people can't wait to get to their slopeside condos after a day of skiing on Snowmass to change clothes and head "into town" or why they bypass this place completely in the summer.

"OK, OK," you say. "But Aspen is a lot bigger than Snowmass Village." Sure. According to the 2010 census, Aspen is approximately 2.4 times bigger than Snowmass Village. Why, then, is Aspen a million times more appealing?

It can't be the skiing. More people ski at Snowmass every winter than at our other three mountains combined. It can't be the shopping or the dining, either. Retailers and restaurateurs generally don't create crowds — they follow them. If we got more people to hang out in the village, we'd have the restaurants and shops, too.

If you take a good look at the list I compiled above, it's obvious why people prefer to spend their time and money in Aspen. Aspen gives them something to do. More precisely, it has given entertainment providers lots of places to entertain, and people come to see it.

In Snowmass Village, we spend tons of advertising dollars telling people to come here. What we've never given them is a handful of concrete, year-in, year-out reasons to do so. They say you can't beat word-of-mouth. I'm afraid plenty of Snowmass Village visitors don't have anything good to say about what goes on here after the lifts close, so they don't say anything at all.

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Aspen has its ideal: body, mind and soul. We have ours: ski season, Wednesday night rodeos and Jazz Aspen Snowmass. Fans of Aspen are fond of saying, "We came for the winter but stayed for the summer." Snowmass loyalists say, "We stayed for the discounted rooms and came to appreciate the free bus service into Aspen."

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Related Amalgamated Whatever needs to finally step up and create some amenities for this town to pay us back for putting up with it and its mess for the past decade. If you happened to see that piece, please forget every suggestion I made for things the community might enjoy. Like a lightning bolt, the one thing we truly need came to mind, and it makes the rest look superfluous.

We can't re-create all the entertainment venues that Aspen has, but we can build one great facility that has a piece of everything it does. It should be the central feature of Base Village. It has to be significant — in size, design and renown. It must be appealing aesthetically, inside and out. It needs to be comfortable. It needs to be super-cool. It has got to be the main reason people want to hang out in our town at night and give people in Aspen reasons to come out here, too. Now, there's an idea!

We can't get the Music Associates of Aspen to move out here. But I bet we could get several first-rate performances every summer if we give them a first-rate place to hold them. Ditto for Ballet Aspen and Theatre Aspen. We probably could book a few speakers from the Aspen Ideas Festival if we provide a venue that complements their image. Academy film screenings? Not a problem if we make it a first-class affair. Art shows? We could host great Aspen Art Museum overflow shows provided it's not a step or three down from the museum's new facility. Who knows what our own beloved Anderson Ranch Arts Center could do in something like this? World-class programs require a world-class stage. People for years have complained that we don't have a center of town. Voila!

This is what Related needs to build for us. It's what it needs to build for our visitors. For crying out loud, it's what it needs to build for itself. It's exactly what this town needs to cover up a gargantuan mistake once and for all. We can't let Related get out of here without building this.

Roger Marolt finds it ironic that he lives in a tourist town with no tourist attractions in it. Contact him at roger@maroltllp.com.