By Alan Keays, VTDigger
RUTLAND — Rutland city officials and business leaders are looking at ways to get money flowing downhill from the tens of thousands of people attending World Cup ski racing events at Killington Ski Resort this fall.
“I think it’s important that we do this,” Sharon Davis, president of the city Board of Aldermen, said at a meeting Thursday. “We don’t have these kind of opportunities often where folks are visiting the region in this mass of numbers.”
Alderman Tom DePoy added, “We need to get as many down here as we can to help out city business owners and everybody else.”
Killington is hosting the 2017 Audi FIS Women’s World Cup ski racing event over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, from Friday, Nov. 24, to Sunday, Nov. 26.
Last year, the first time Killington hosted the World Cup racing event, it drew about 30,000 spectators over two days of racing. This year, with added activities Friday, the event runs over three days, with racing Saturday and Sunday, and an expectation of even more people.
In looking at the economic impact of the World Cup event last year, town of Killington officials have said that based on tax receipts they estimated that an additional $10 million in revenue came into the community of Killington compared with the same quarter the year prior.
At a meeting Thursday of the Rutland’s Board of Aldermen’s Recreation Committee, talk centered on what the city can do to entice people attending the Killington events to travel the roughly 20 minutes to Rutland.
One committee member lightheartedly suggested the city turn all traffic signals red on city roads leading to Killington and keep the lights green on arrows pointing motorists to the city’s downtown.
Other suggestions to capture World Cup dollars in Rutland ranged from holding a downtown chili cook-off to setting off fireworks at night.
The panel agreed to meet again in about two weeks to discuss the matter with Steve Peters, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, and Mary Cohen, executive director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
The committee agreed to publish fliers promoting activities and amenities in Rutland that could be distributed during the World Cup event at a booth that will be set up in Killington that weekend.
In addition to featuring city restaurants and lodging establishments, committee members spoke of the need to highlight attractions for families, such as the Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum, as well as the local bowling alley, movie theater and rock climbing center.
The city recreation department is already planning a family fun day that Saturday at Giorgetti Arena, which will offer free ice skating and host other children activities.
The city also is hosting a downtown holiday tree-lighting ceremony that weekend, which includes a visit from Santa Claus. And, committee members said, the World Cup weekend falls on the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, with city merchants offering Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals.
“I’m thinking even if we can get 1,000 people that spend a $100 per person over that stretch, that’s $100,000 coming into the city,” said DePoy, committee chairman. “And that’s the low side.”
Alderman William Notte, another committee member, agreed.
“Every family that we lure down the mountain to shop here, to hit a restaurant or two, that’s some significant money coming into our local economy.” he said.
Notte said it will also be important to point out to people that if they travel to Rutland they won’t have to deal with all the crowds that they’ll find in Killington that weekend.
“You can make the argument that you could drive to Rutland, walk into a restaurant, and get a table quicker than if you walk into a restaurant in Killington and have to wait,” he said.
Some committee members also discussed trying to recruit visitors to settling in Rutland or opening a business in the city. They talked of ways to feature available real estate in the city as well as potential draws, such as a new outdoor swimming pool now under construction.
Davis, the leader of the city Board of Aldermen, pointed to a recent regional marketing initiative underway that seeks to highlight high-paying jobs available in the region in an effort to boost the number of people living, working and opening businesses in the area.
The Rutland Economic Development Corporation and the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce have raised more than $200,000 from businesses and organizations around the region. Surrounding towns have also pitched in. Rutland City put up the biggest chunk of money, contributing $100,000.
A company, Mondo Mediaworks of Brattleboro, has been hired to help develop the marketing campaign, which includes an effort to promote the region as the Killington Valley to tourists, highlighting outdoor recreational opportunities.
Davis said at the Thursday meeting that while it may be late in the process this year, next year more should be done to spread the economic impact of the World Cup event to communities around the region through the Killington Valley initiative.