Three suggestions to improve the X Games
Just because Aspen is becoming a victim of the Winter X Games’ success, that doesn’t mean this star-studded event should go away.But the numbers local officials recently provided don’t lie: 35 arrests, 521 calls for service, 31,200 spectators in one day, 75,000 over the four-day period. There’s also the economic impact of roughly $500,000 per day, the city has estimated. The event’s title sponsor, ESPN, also reported last week that 925,377 households tuned in for the final night of Winter X Games 11 at Buttermilk, Jan. 25-28.What haven’t been counted are the food wrappers and empty beer and Red Bull cans scattered about town, or the vehicles illegally parked for days at a time.”Some of the visitors could show a little more respect for where they are, but human behavior is a difficult thing to regulate,” Mayor Helen Klanderud said last week.Still, we can’t discount the energy this event brings to Aspen. For at least one weekend per year, hip replacements are out and hip-hop is in.As this event continues to grow, though, something has to give. X Games strains our tax-supported services, from local law enforcement, to our bus system, to Aspen Valley Hospital. By many accounts it also takes a toll on the local population and the service industry.For many X Games spectators, consideration and respect don’t seem to be part of the playbook. Parking is always a problem in Aspen during the high season, but during the X Games it’s especially ugly. So when officials gather to discuss how the event could be improved next year, we offer these suggestions: Have an “X Games Court” – Key West and Panama City Beach tried this during spring break, so we see no reason why it couldn’t work here during X Games. It works like this: When spring breakers are arrested for misdemeanors such as breaking the open container law, they must appear in court the next morning. To avoid being charged, they can agree to a “pre-trial intervention,” which results in them picking up trash throughout town that day. The X Games Court could require offenders to wear pink shirts so everybody could see them when they’re picking up litter. They would have to buy these shirts, and the money would go to a worthy community cause. Parking at Cozy Point – Officials said they closed Cozy Point to parking this year because in prior years it posed too many mud and traffic challenges. Maybe so, but closing Cozy Point created a new set of traffic and parking challenges for X Games spectators, not to mention skiers and snowboarders caught in the vehicular crossfire. With this event only getting bigger, it makes perfect sense to use this amenity. Throw a bone to the locals – The X Games are only four days long, but the associated headaches, particularly skier parking at Buttermilk, last much longer. So it’s not a stretch to ask for free parking for the weekend after the Games, either in the downtown core, or better yet, at Highlands or Snowmass. A small gesture to recognize, or make up for, the inconvenience associated with a mega-event.Those are just a few ideas. We hope residents drum up others and suggest them to local decision-makers. In doing so, we can devise solutions to make the X Games better for everybody, instead of complain about an event that refreshes Aspen’s image and boosts its economy.
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