Town of Avon taking new approach to hosting events
AVON — The WinterWonderGrass festival is headed to Steamboat Springs, and in a town that constructed a pavilion in 2014 aimed at attracting events like that one, questions abound.
Since 2014, costs on the $3.2 million pavilion stage have not stopped, with the latest item in need of additional construction — a wind screen — expected to push the total costs on the facility above $4 million in 2017.
This week, the town took an in-depth look at what needs to happen to have their goals realized on that stage, and events in general, and what those goals are.
In a special meeting called by the town council that lasted nearly five hours, all things events dominated the conversation Wednesday evening from the big questions to the small.
Council and staff examined constructive criticism posited by the producers themselves, with Reds, Whites & Brews producer Krista Benedetti, CoverRock producer Tom Dobrez, and WinterWonderGrass producer Scotty Stoughton all speaking.
Onerous administrative processes and more paperwork than other areas were a common theme among the criticisms in the way events are run in Avon. Town staff said those problems have been targeted and will be corrected, and the town would form an ad-hoc committee comprised of volunteer stakeholders to provide additional event support.
Town manager Virginia Egger said additional staff would be required to take on more events, and town attorney Eric Heil also said more staff would be required if the town of Avon wanted to start pulling its own special events permits to facilitate the sale of alcohol at new events. To maintain the status quo, additional staff would not be required, Egger said.
That status quo, however, is what received the greatest amount of criticism from the event producers, who said the fact that the town is engaging in the events discussion bodes well for the future.
“I think a lot of the things you’re talking in terms of the simplification of a lot of these procedures is wonderful,” Stoughton said.
Stoughton discussed Avon’s original plan with WinterWonderGrass, which was to provide seed funding for three years with hopes that, by year four, the event would be successful enough that it didn’t need funding.
“It sounded great year one, but I had no idea what it would cost me moving this event from Edwards to Avon,” Stoughton said. “Then all of a sudden in year two, 30 percent increase in the ticket fee. And then year three, it’s like ‘Let’s talk about losing funding.’
“A lot of things start to just wear on you as a producer,” Stoughton added.
LEVEL OF TRUST
Stoughton said a lack of trust displayed by Avon management shone light on other issues. He said he had to hire additional staff just to take on Avon’s wrist band distribution plan.
“Instead of just looking at my manifest like every other community … now I’ve got to count wrist bands because someone doesn’t maybe trust how many I’m selling,” he said. “Those types of things made me wonder if this was the right place to do events, and then it shone the light on other opportunities.”
Councilman Jake Wolf also said trust was an issue between town council and staff. Following the announcement that WinterWonderGrass would be moving on, Wolf asked Egger during a public meeting what went wrong — if she offered him both cash and in-kind services — and Egger replied that she had.
Stoughton confirmed on Wednesday that he had not been offered any cash, just in-kind services.
“And when I asked for money, it was not because we’re doing great and I want to squeeze Avon for more money, it was because this is what I need to succeed,” Stoughton said. “When I asked for something and I get zero back, it certainly was an indication that we don’t really need this. And that’s fine, I get it. Business is business.”
Egger said her numbers suggested direct sales tax revenue was approximately $10,000 from WinterWonderGrass 2016. Stoughton said his numbers suggested it was as much as eight times that amount.
“My sales tax alone was like $8,000, in what I spent just on my staff’s hotels and things on site,” he said. “Then they said ‘compared to a non-event weekend, we don’t know how much of that was from you,’ so I was constantly getting shut down on the economic value of the event … that doesn’t feel right.”
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