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Almost half a million dollars requested for two 2013 events

Winter event producers await imminent word on FE&A muni funding


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Two event producers, who plan to shake up the resort in early 2013, will learn next week if they are successful in their pitch for municipal money.

Combined, the wish-list for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) and WinterPride totals $450,000. Or almost the entire budget of the municipal festival augmentation funding last year.

And that's before the summer festival season even begins.

This year the municipality has opened the door for winter event funding by freeing up some of the provincial grant money previously tied up in bureaucracy until May. But that means the competition for the 2013 funding pot is even fiercer than before, as the season stretches almost 12 months.

WSSF producer Sue Eckersley has asked for $350,000 in augmentation funding from the Festivals, Events and Animation (FE&A) municipal budget in a year where the festival is facing the very real possibility of not having a title sponsor after more than a decade with Telus on the masthead. Telus didn't renew its seven-year contract after it expired following the 2012 festival.

The WSSF request is targeted at three specific areas: to amp up an online live webcast, to get bigger names for the concert series, and for more prize money in the snowboarding competitions to attract bigger names.

"I believe that this money will give us the opportunity to get us to the next step with WSSF," said Eckersley, of the signature Whistler festival that caps off every winter season with a 10-day blast of music, arts and culture and of course, sport.

"If I know next week that they are going to invest in the live webcast... then I can start selling it."

The idea of the live online website is to grow viewership and have more people looking at Whistler and wanting to come here, but to also ultimately monetize it by selling online media spots. Last year, for example, 43,000 people watched a live webcast of the festival's iconic Big Air event through a partnership with You Tube and Samsung.

"Clearly during the X Games (pitch) I was made aware that there was this appetite in Whistler for more broadcast opportunities," said Eckersley of the resort's attempts to attract the global X Games to Whistler. Council pledged $250,000 at that time to sweeten the deal but was unsuccessful in the end.

WSSF was one of 11 existing festivals specifically invited to submit a proposal for augmentation funding to the FE&A Working Group at the end of October.

When asked why only 11 producers were invited to submit proposals in what appears to be a closed process rather than an open RFP, the municipality explained that it wasn't an application, rather "an outreach."

In a background briefing with the

Pique, as per municipal communications policy, the municipality explained there is nothing to stop events coming to Whistler. The augmentation funding, which last year totaled $475,000 out of the overall $2.6 million FE&A budget, is for existing events. It was not a random outreach; determining which events received the email to request funds was significant work.

In addition to the $350,000 requested by WSSF, WinterPride submitted a "shopping list" ranging in value from $30,000 to $100,000. Like WSSF, WinterPride has never asked for municipal funding. This year the seven-day gay ski week will take place February 3 to 10.

Among other things, event producers submitting their augmentation funding proposals had to outline the benefits to the resort from their events, including direct economic impact from room nights and marketing impact, and the potential for growth.