Gol-ly... the X Games? Here?
Okay, so much for the unbridled enthusiasm. Now how about we deal with some of the harder questions.
Let me start by saying I neither support nor oppose bringing the X Games spinoff to Whistler. I'm just hoping for some clarification and an enlightened debate, as opposed to the blind boosterism that often supports the bling of high-wattage sporting events dangled in front of eager potential host sites.
To recap, ESPN — Entertainment and Sports Programming Network — owns the X Games, a winter festival of ski, snowboard and snowmobile events that take place over four days around the end of January in Aspen, Colorado. The X Games began in 1997 at Big Bear Lake, California, and jumped around for a couple of years before landing in Aspen where they've been held since 2002. The current contract with Aspen expires this year.
But that has nothing to do with Whistler. Whistler isn't bidding to replace Aspen and bring the X Games here at the end of January. ESPN has decided, as networks have historically done with, for example, sitcoms, to spinoff the X Games and expand the franchise by adding additional winter and summer X Games. Whistler is bidding to bring an X Games to town in April of 2013 for a three-year trial.
In the absence of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, the only issue worth discussing would be who pays. But the fact is Global X, or whatever it's going to be called — for the sake of convenience, let's just call it the X Games — will bump up against TWSSF and require some kind of marriage of convenience, not to say a merger, acquisition or Borgian assimilation.
So right off the bat, the issue becomes what exactly is the incremental pop we're likely to enjoy from this union? If one of the keys to future tourism growth in Whistler is hosting more high-profile events, wouldn't it be in our best interest to host events at times we don't already throw blockbuster events? You don't generally diversify your portfolio by larding on more of what you've already got. If the X Games were coming in, say, March, there wouldn't, again, be anything to talk about... except who pays.
But what this merger really entails is turning over — or perhaps more accurately replacing — the athletic events currently hosted by TWSSF to ESPN and adding some others and raising the profile of those events through the tie-in with the X Games brand and the exposure flowing out of ESPN's television coverage.
What are the benefits of that?
Tourism Whistler's president, Barrett Fisher, was quoted as saying, "... the Aspen X Games attracted 114,000 in four days in 2011, its hotel rooms 100 per cent occupied. We in fact think we can grow that number."