By Alison Taylor
Corporations with deep pockets are knocking on Whistler’s doors, looking to book out businesses during the 2010 Olympic Games.
And, if the price is right, Whistler businesses are open to making a deal.
“We’re not interested in gouging,” said Richard Baker, managing partner at Hy’s Steakhouse who is currently in negotiations with a corporate organization to use his prime village space during the 2010 Games. “All we would do is ask for a minimum of what we normally do during that time period, plus obviously a little bump considering it’s three years away.”
Baker was approached roughly one month ago about making a deal to be a corporate venue for three weeks during the Games. That could involve providing breakfast, lunch and dinner, or perhaps 24-hour service, for the corporation. The negotiations are ongoing.
Meanwhile, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce is appealing to businesses to sign up with their program that will match the potential supply of commercial space with the demand from Olympic-related organizations.
At least 80 organizations who are part of the “2010 family” — athletes, sports officials, sponsors, broadcasters, accredited media and the operations team — have expressed an interest in exploring commercial space opportunities in Whistler.
The matching program is designed to fully utilize Whistler’s commercial space, while providing an excellent guest experience.
The first phase of this central matching program will be introduced at the end of July.
That, said Dave Davenport, chair of the board of the Chamber of Commerce, is right on schedule.
“At this point in time it seems to be rumours of people looking, rumours of people who have signed but not as much fact yet,” he said.
“If they (businesses) are interested in an opportunity, this is a great way to determine what is (out there)… It’s an opportunity to make sure that the match is a solid deal.”
It is also designed to mitigate an ongoing challenge at Olympic Games — ambush marketing.
That’s when corporations who have not paid to be an official Olympic sponsor show up at the Games and try to maximize their presence.
That could be a problem for Whistler.
“It can really, really tarnish Whistler’s situation if you end up with what’s called ambush marketing,” said Davenport. “There will be some of that but the ability to limit that will help Whistler quite a bit.”
Baker is not sure what corporation is looking to book out Hy’s. He would be surprised, he said, if it was not an Olympic sponsor because of the high cost.
He would not reveal his asking price.
André St. Jacques, owner of the Bearfoot Bistro, knows his price.
Like Baker, he has been approached by companies looking to book space for the Games. His ballpark figure is $900,000 for one week, for breakfast, lunch and dinner — that is the minimum the company would be required to spend.
“It’s basically an average of my biggest night a year, which is New Year’s,” he said.
“For the Olympics, it’ll be New Year’s every night.”
Like Baker, he too would prefer to see his space booked out for the Games as a corporate venue.
“I’m looking for a corporate sponsor who’s willing to do some serious entertaining,” said St. Jacques.
Both restaurateurs are not sure what to expect in terms of walk-in traffic during that time period. A corporate deal would guarantee solid revenue.
Generally three weeks in February during the busy ski season is a lucrative time for Whistler businesses. But February 2010 won’t be a normal time, and the whole winter could be a bit unpredictable.
“I’m not positive of what is going to be available at that time if we are just open to the public…” said Baker. “So I would prefer to be a corporate venue, if the price is right.”
Jeff Ciecko, general manager of the Nicklaus North Golf Course, which includes The Den restaurant, also confirmed there have been inquiries to rent out his space.
“We’ve had some initial discussions with a couple of groups,” he said. “It’s an interesting time, it’s an interesting process to go through to hear what different people want to use spaces for and to try and see how it works, and how it works for everybody.”
He has not signed a deal but there are ongoing questions, such as how big is the space, how many people can it hold, is there office space available?
Ciecko said: “The biggest challenge that we have as a resort is that we want to make sure that not all of the space gets eaten up and that the average spectator who’s here to witness the Olympics is still able to enjoy the fine dining experiences that Whistler offers as well.”