X Games’ fate in Aspen might be decided soon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. executive David Perry said Tuesday that he is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the company’s chances of keeping the ESPN Winter X Games at Buttermilk in future years, but the community should soon know the fate of the event, one way or the other.
“Everyone connected with ESPN loves it here,” he told the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board of directors. “Negotiations are ongoing. I think it’s going to be weeks rather than months before we figure it all out.”
Aspen has hosted the Winter X Games since 2002, but its current contract with ESPN expired after this year’s games, which wrapped up Sunday. Apart from its discussions with Aspen, the television sports network is considering bids from nine prospective host cities for an expanded series of X Games events in addition to winter and summer events in the U.S. Aspen has been host to the winter games for a decade; the summer event has been in Los Angeles.
Of the nine foreign cities that have been announced as contenders, only Whistler, British Columbia, put in a bid to host a winter event.
ESPN is looking to expand the X Games’ global attraction, but the international bidding process has opened the network’s eyes to what potential hosts are willing to offer to secure an X Games, said Perry, senior vice president, mountain operations for Skico.
“I think that they want a lot more from this community, even with what we’ve given,” he said.
The specifics of Skico’s offer have not been disclosed, but the city of Aspen contributed $100,000 to the X Games cause this year.
“If the city can play a role, within reason, we will,” Mayor Mick Ireland told the ACRA board. The city has not been directly involved in the negotiations, he added.
In a memo to its employees before the most recent X Games, Skico indicated it was seeking a five-year contract extension with ESPN and indicated the Skico’s latest bid represented a “significant increase in value.” The company also sought additional room-rate concessions from the lodging community, which provides about 6,000 rooms during the preparation, execution and clean-up of the games.
Local lodging establishments will continue to be generous in order to attract events such as the X Games and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which made its debut last summer, but the rest of the community needs to step up, as well, said John Speers, general manager of Skico’s The Little Nell hotel and an ACRA board member.
“We need support from the entire community,” he said. “There needs to be giving from all levels.”
The benefit of filling up accommodations during big events trickles throughout the local economy, Speers noted.
This year’s X Games drew an estimated 108,000 people to the base of Buttermilk over the four days of competition, including 45,600 on Saturday, a single-day record for the event. Overall attendance set a record in 2011 with 114,200 people over four days.
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