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X Games nixes big concerts

Joel Stonington
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad/Aspen Times file
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ASPEN ” The big concerts at Wagner Park will not happen during the upcoming Winter X Games. Instead, the Aspen Skiing Co. has taken over entertainment in town during the four-day event and will have only one concert, Thursday night on Aspen Mountain.

“We had discussions with [ESPN] and we took the role over of entertainment in town,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.

ESPN announced Wednesday that all events related to Winter X Games 12, scheduled Jan. 24-27, will take place at Buttermilk, including any musical acts. However, a source at ESPN said there won’t be any major concerts put on by the sports network.

The major concert will now take place Thursday night, and the Skico has decided to hold a quarterpipe competition at Aspen Mountain on Friday and Saturday nights.

The three nights of concerts in past years, billed as Apres X and featuring acts such as rapper Common and Perry Ferrell’s Satellite Party, have been among the biggest nights for bars in Aspen. But the concerts also have shortened the patience of locals and significantly strained city services, from trash collection to transit.

“The concerts add a great aspect to that week but they also have some serious negative factors,” said City Councilman Jack Johnson. “Aspen is a small town. Sometimes you just have to realize that you don’t have the capacity or resources to have these huge crowds.”

Aspen police responded to at least 521 calls for service over the four days of the 2007 X Games, and made 35 arrests. The event led indirectly to more than two dozen criminal cases, including the firing of a gun near officers making a traffic stop and the alleged assault of an Aspen police officer.

Interim Police Chief Richard Pryor agreed that past X Games have been difficult at times, but said the department is up to the task so long as everything planned well.

“It’s a pretty challenging event to provide staffing for,” said Pryor. “We manage to pull it off and each year we get better at managing it.”

Last year’s X Games generated an extra $3.37 million in Aspen retail sales, according to the city’s finance office. And for the past few years, the hotels in Aspen are booked for months before the games come to town. Now that all of ESPN’s events will be at Buttermilk, it is unclear whether Aspen will be affected economically.

“I would like to think people come to the X Games for the event itself,” said ESPN spokesman Danny Chi. “I don’t know if it will change the number of spectators and the number of people downtown. I would think they would still check out downtown.”

Some bar owners, who have consistently said it is the biggest weekend of the year, have wondered if the lack of musical acts will reduce the number of people coming to town.

“It’s a little bit of a buzzkill because there’s so much energy that weekend,” said Darren Chapple, owner of the Cantina. “It’s a huge draw.”

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com.


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