If numbers add up right, the World Cup will return | TahoeDailyTribune.com

If numbers add up right, the World Cup will return

Sally J. Taylor

As World Cup athletes and their entourage pack skis and cameras to head to the next event, officials at Heavenly Ski Resort are adding numbers to determine if they want to do it again next year.

“If all the circumstances work out like we’d like them to, (the World Cup Freestyle) will be back at Heavenly next year,” said John Wagnon, Heavenly’s vice president of marketing. “The question is “if it makes sense financially for Heavenly. … Our initial reaction is yes, it’s what we want to do.”

The event requires a major financial commitment. Based on preliminary estimates, Wagnon said the resort spent “in excess of $100,000 in unsponsored costs.”

Besides grooming the course, the host ski resort is responsible for feeding and transporting the athletes, setting up the hospitality tents and organizing lodging. Blizzard conditions over the weekend added to the costs due to increased grooming, staff hours and the weather postponement of the women’s aerials that extended the event by a day.

Besides Heavenly’s costs, other local sponsors included Horizon Casino Resort, Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Caesars Tahoe and the M.S. Dixie II.

Then there’s the major dollars spent by the event’s name sponsor, Sprint.

Keeping costs down was a core of about 90 volunteers.

“If it hadn’t been for them, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” said Monica Bandows, Heavenly’s communications director.

Hosting a World Cup event does not come cheap or easy.

“It’s a prestigious event,” Bandows said. “Heavenly is one of only two resorts in the U.S. to have a (World Cup) freestyle event.”

Resorts do not often get an opportunity to host events of such international interest. There are just eight World Cup events in four sports scheduled in the U.S. this season.

For Heavenly, it’s been 13 years since it hosted a World Cup event.

If it chooses to, Heavenly has the opportunity to host the World Cup event for the next three years.

With athletes, entourage, media and spectators, Wagnon estimated about 2,500 to 3,500 people were in town for the World Cup who otherwise would not have been here.

Based on parking and crowd counts, Heavenly officials estimated attendance at the events from a low of 200 on Monday to 2,000 to 3,000 watching Friday’s fireworks and acrobatics. Even during Saturday’s blizzard, an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people bundled up to watch.

While the crowds are welcome, local marketing professionals consider the media coverage of major events such as the World Cup and Celebrity Golf Championship the biggest community benefit.

The World Cup Freestyle events generated daily news coverage. Plus NBC will broadcast an hour-long, nationwide broadcast on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Canadian Broadcast Company plans a prime time special on the event and NBC will feed footage to international markets.

“It’s not only a national but (also) an international audience,” Wagnon said. “The World Cup is bigger in Europe than it is here.”

Each sweep of the camera with Lake Tahoe and its surrounding mountains stimulates vacation interest far more than the equivalent time in paid advertising, marketers say.

The key to the World Cup’s return is financial commitments.

“We’re going to need sponsorships to help offset the costs,” Bandows said.

Sprint officials have said they would like to return next year.

World Cup officials also liked the way the event was organized.

“We would definitely like to have that event back,” Bandows said. “It’s great for Heavenly and the community.”

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