Sundance Film Festival logistical challenges can be surmounted
The Park Record editorial, March 11-14, 2017
March 10, 2017
The Sundance Film Festival is getting a bum rap. The event that has been filling rooms and restaurants in Park City for more than 30 years and is credited with pumping about $80 million annually into Utah's economy — with much of that total circulating right here in Park City — seems to be taking the heat for every traffic jam that happened in town last January.
Granted, travel was frightful throughout the month, but a number of factors contributed to the city's clogged roadways and overflowing parking lots. Record-breaking snowstorms, scads of skiers at the ever-expanding ski resorts and an unexpectedly passionate political protest combined with celebrity studded premieres stirred up up to a perfect storm. Add Park City's growing day-to-day commuter challenges and it is easy to see that festival-goers were not the sole offenders.
There has been a noisy call to arms lately as city leaders try to sort out citizen concerns about special events and traffic woes, in general, with Old Town residents taking aim at the Sundance Film Festival, in particular.
Residents' complaints surfaced at an informal coffee-with-council event two weeks ago, with at least one longtime Parkite saying the festival was "out of control." The council was slated to take up the matter at its meeting Thursday but opted to postpone the discussion
In fact, with the exception of the day 9,000 protesters descended on Main Street to join a worldwide protest against the newly elected U.S. president, the festival — with its augmented shuttle service — ran smoothly, despite the back-to-back snowstorms.
Nevertheless, Old Town residents who bear the brunt of the city's bulging slate of special events throughout the year deserve consideration. Establishing a restricted access pass for residents, similar to the system used during the art festival, would be a reasonable solution. Festival organizers should also consider pulling back the footprint on lower Main Street where a new expansion riled local merchants.
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Sundance and Park City leaders have surmounted similar challenges in the past, and the result has been a win for both sides — a film festival that has achieved worldwide recognition while also burnishing Park City's international appeal.
This year's festival did come with a sideshow of slide-offs and traffic congestion, but that should not outweigh the economic and cultural benefits the festival bestows on Park City.
One need only look over the mountain at the departure of the Outdoor Retailer from Salt Lake City as an example of a community suffering from remorse at having driven away a multi-million-dollar showcase.
The Park City Council is expected to continue the discussion about film festival logistics at its next regularly scheduled meeting.