Guest editorial: Park City must set the terms when dealing with Vail
September 18, 2015
For those who don’t know, the Park City Leadership Class, many city and county employees, elected officials and some of the general public headed to Breckenridge, Colorado recently for the annual city tour. This is an amazing annual tradition that has yielded not only great information about what other towns are doing, but inspired some of our best programs.
Breckenridge was a place that many wanted to go for one reason: Vail Resorts. What does a historic city with its own unique character look like after a mega-corporation comes in? Honestly, not a whole lot different than the last time I was there, but start asking around, and there are lots of stories.
Make no mistake: Vail is not the evil empire, they are a business and as such, they want to make as much money as possible. They have a vested interest in keeping any city in which they operate the kind of town that people want to continue to visit year after year. In that regard, we have the same goals, but as Breckenridge showed us, we may not agree on how to get there.
Vail isn’t very popular in Breck, at least not with the people I spoke to. They had a knock-down, drag-out fight with the town. The town, in their eyes, prevailed because the city council stood strong and united.
In our wrap-up on the last day of the City Tour, Jan Wilking made many wonderful points, but the one that stuck with me the most was the idea that we as a city (people and government) need to decide what WE want from Vail. We know they have a plan and it is going to be one to benefit their business. What is our plan? What do we want from Vail?
They will most certainly be bringing a mixed bag to our town. More traffic and more people, also more money. Any ski resort will boost the economy, but Vail is a world class operator and I expect we’ll see them throwing all of that power behind this new brand with amazing results.
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As Diane Foster said on the tour, we are not victims. Liza Simpson chimed in to say that Vail might be the 850-pound gorilla, but we are the 650-pound town. I totally agree that fear shouldn’t be what makes us pay attention, but we certainly need to be cautious. A wonderful relationship with Vail is the hope, but that hope should come second to always having an eye to what is right and the consequences to the people of Park City. Both of our ski resorts bring vital employment and recreation to our town, but they also cause many of the problems.
Vail is going to be coming to us sooner rather than later with a lot of big changes and if we aren’t ready with our quid pro quo terms as a community, we may miss the opportunity to get for our give. Codes need to be in place. Like all of us, Vail isn’t going to spend a penny more than they have to, so counting on them to partner in ways that benefit the community should be the rule, not just the hope.