Town under gun to save rodeo |

Town under gun to save rodeo

Sarah S. Chung

With the town of Snowmass Village chipping in $30,000, there’s one business day and $70,000 standing in the way of saving the resort’s summer rodeo for at least one more season.

Since the rodeo grounds were recently put up for sale for $5.5 million, several proposals for a joint public/ private effort to keep the rodeo grounds intact and the event in place have floated about.

But, while options are being explored, the clock has been ticking on the contracts to run a rodeo this year. Last week, Bill Burwell, co-owner of the property, offered to continue the rodeo for another summer if the town would subsidize its $100,000 annual loss.

Last night, the Town Council unanimously approved a $30,000 subsidy – a sum that is “substantially more” than what’s allotted for some other summer amenities, like the free concert series and the summer chairlift operation, council members noted.

It remains to be seen whether other community groups can raise the remainder of the subsidy in a day’s time. Terry Hunt, president of the Snowmass Resort Association, and other business leaders have indicated they’ll try.

“They have at least 24 hours,” said Burwell after last night’s meeting, adding that he has already delayed signing contracts for the livestock and other components of the rodeo operation. “It’s not just me, there are a lot of people who needed to know a week ago if we’re going to have this thing or not.”

So what can be done in 24 hours? Hunt wouldn’t comment specifically, but he noted that “clearly the willingness is there. There’s just the matter of someone picking up the ball and I’m getting the distinct impression that it just landed in my court.”

Before Monday’s vote on the rodeo subsidy, Burwell argued that if the town is considering entering into a partnership to buy the land outright, $100,000 buys not just another season of rodeo, but also the time to put a deal together to purchase the grounds.

But council members were not willing to spend $100,000 to keep the rodeo afloat for another summer. Members noted that, while many town residents conceptually support the rodeo, very few seem to want the town to hand over a check to fully underwrite the event’s losses.

“In taking a straw poll of as many people as I could, I kept running into, `If I have a business that’s not doing so well, can I come in and get a piece of the pie too,’ ” Councilman Kevin Costello said. “The $100,000 to them seemed like a crazy figure.”

Residents at the meeting did, however, applaud the rodeo for distinguishing Snowmass from a multitude of other resorts and keeping alive the spirit of the “Old West.” But the sentiment wasn’t enough to sway council members, especially in light of a projected $350,000 to $400,000 deficit in the town’s 2000 budget.

“It’s unfortunate that this comes at a time when we’re already tightening our belts,” said Councilman Mark Brady, noting the council will very likely have to make cuts due to a shortfall in projected sales tax revenue. “For the very reason we need the rodeo, we don’t have the money to [save it.]”

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