Tahoe shoots for new competition
It would require an unprecedented level of cooperation between the public and private sector to bring the Winter X Games to Lake Tahoe, tourism officials say.
ESPN, which owns the extreme sports competition franchise, announced Jan. 17 that Lake Tahoe was among the qualified cities to host the winter event 2015 through 2017. The Winter X Games usually take place in January or February, and can attract up to 25,000 spectators per day.
“We’re going to need a lot of partnerships to pull something like that off. It would be a challenge to pull it off, but for us, the X Games brand would be really well suited,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority Executive Director Carol Chaplin said.
Tahoe’s X Games bid is sponsored by the Lake Tahoe Sports Organizing Committee, a group that includes the LTVA, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley. The two ski resorts would share the event, but still have to determine which competitions would go where.
Chaplin and a handful of other committee members recently returned from Aspen, Colo., where they watched the games and saw how they were presented. It was an “amazing” yet “intimidating” experience, Chaplin said.
It takes thousands of hours and dollars to prepare for the X Games, according to Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland. It’s a yearlong, ever-evolving process, and while the ski company bears the brunt of the burden, the whole community comes together to support the event, Ireland said. The city invested $150,000 in the games, not including all the resources provided by the resort.
Despite all the work, Aspen still wants the X Games – which the city estimates generates up to $10 million – to return. The fully integrated venue that includes production facilities, lodging and competition features gives Aspen a competitive advantage, Ireland said.
“Aspen has some advantages because it runs very smoothly here,” he said. “We have a large public transportation system that can handle the spectators. We don’t have to ramp it up too much because we have the existing capacity.”
ESPN outlines three key requirements that bid cities must address to host the X Games – management, facilities, and services and equipment. If Lake Tahoe gets the event, the community will be responsible for all the staffing, venues to accommodate 5,000 to 20,000 spectators, parking, a block of complimentary hotel rooms and shuttle service for the athletes and spectators.
Mandatory on-snow features include a 564-foot-long superpipe with a 18 degree pitch – 114-feet longer and 1.5 degrees steeper that Heavenly’s current halfpipe – and a 4,379-foot-long cross course with an almost 700-foot vertical drop.
Heavenly or Squaw would also be responsible for a 44,881-square-foot snowmobile venue and a 803-foot-long big air kicker with almost 250 feet of vertical drop.
It’s still too early to begin talking about infrastructure, Heavenly’s General Manager Pete Sonntag said, but the resort plans to move forward with the Winter X Games bid.
The requirements proved too onerous for Park City, which ended its bid Tuesday for the games after citing concerns about cost and impacts to the community, according to a Jan. 30 article in The Salt Lake Tribune. Park City estimated that the overall cost to organize and host the X Games was between $5 million and $10 million, the article read.
ESPN representatives have already met with members of the Tahoe committee to discuss venue layout, sports and cultural elements and tour the site, according to Tori Stevens, the vice president of event and business operations for the X Games. Following steps will be developed over the next few weeks, Stevens wrote in an email.
Finalists will be determined by April 2013 and host cities will be announced by the end of the year. Members of the Lake Tahoe Sports Organizing Committee will need to keep meeting and collaborating over the next few months to finalize the proposal, Chaplin said.
“It’s nothing less than Olympic-scope for a resort. It’ll be interesting to see … We always play the scenic beauty card. It’s the foundation of what Tahoe is – summer or winter,” Chaplin said.