Local revenue from VIP ticket sales for the 2012 USA Pro Challenge (UPC) took a hit this year because the bike race organizers received all revenue from sales on the UPC website.
In a memo to the Pitkin County commissioners, Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of special events, wrote that the Pro Challenge created competition between the overall race and the local organizing committee by selling tickets to the Aspen VIP tents through its website. Aspen only received VIP revenue from tickets bought directly through the local organization.
“Staff feels like we were priced appropriately,” Lesley wrote in the memo. “It was just the competition with the Pro Challenge that hurt us.”
To what extent the new competition impacts this year’s overall budget isn’t clear however, because numbers aren’t finalized and the local committee predicts fewer expenditures than expected, Lesley’s memo says.
The local committee knew in advance that revenues from online VIP purchases went to the Pro Challenge, said Mitzi Rapkin, the city’s spokesperson. Although the city tried to negotiate total control of local VIP tickets, it was not possible and while it wasn’t ideal, there still were benefits from selling the tickets through the larger Pro Challenge website, she said.
“Aspen still got to sell its tickets but also had the resources of the Pro Challenge outreach and marketing efforts which may have attracted non-locals to purchase VIP tickets in Aspen, thus traveling here, staying in hotels and spending money while here,” Rapkin said.
The committee undertook a strong effort to sell tickets through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club by sending out information on VIP opportunities through local media outlets, email blasts and posting the information on the city’s bike race website, Rapkin said. Still, the Pro Challenge’s ability to reach its fan base was a benefit, potentially reaching a different audience, she said.
Last year, the city had a unique contract with the Pro Challenge compared to the other host cities because the local committee received all the revenues from VIP ticket sales, including those sold online, Rapkin said, adding that she didn’t know why Aspen was the exception. This year, the rules changed.
Last year’s local bike race committee brought in $243,000 in revenues, including government subsidies, $82,000 in VIP ticket sales, and $33,000 in sponsorships, according to a line-item budget of the city’s event published in the Aspen Daily News.
The city doesn’t know how many local VIP tickets UPC sold online and the numbers for how many were sold through local outlets are not finalized yet, Rapkin said. Meanwhile, Pro Challenge representatives declined to comment on how many Aspen VIP tickets were sold online, because revenue information is private, said Nicole Okoneski, a UPC spokesperson.
The VIP tent in Aspen was one of the largest and had the highest ticket price compared to the other host cities, the memo noted. Also, the $10,000 VIP pace car ride that followed the racers was the first to go last year, but it didn’t sell this year. The committee doesn’t know why the VIP car ride didn’t sell, Lesley said.
Prior to the race, the local committee estimated that it would have to pay about $350,000 to meet its staging and logistical obligations for the bike race, and the goal was to raise $250,000 of that from the community. The committee had a $160,000 fundraising goal for VIP ticket sales and “VIP experience” packages, including the special viewing area on Independence Pass and seats in a pace car. Aspen City Council has pledged $100,000 toward the effort, and is on the hook for any budget shortfalls.
The committee has announced it met its sponsorship goal of $60,000, but it is still waiting on revenue from miscellaneous checks, private donors and fundraisers to finalize the budget in the upcoming weeks, Lesley said.
Meanwhile, last week councilmen Torre and Steve Skadron both said they didn’t know revenues from online VIP sales went to the Pro Challenge instead of the local committee, but they both said they were going to follow up with Lesley on the issue.