Following months of extensive market research, the municipality announced funding for Whistler’s 2013 programming lineup Tuesday (Feb. 5), as determined by its Festivals, Events and Animation Oversight Committee.
Fourteen past event producers were invited to submit proposals in late 2012 for a piece of the $2.84 million available through the province’s Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI) to augment their existing programming or enhance the production of the event through technical equipment, security, ticketing, utilities and more. The funds are not meant to go towards operational costs and should further the economic viability of the event.
“The successful proponents for this augmentation investment were the organizations that best represented the criteria for the advancement of the FE&A strategy,” said the committee’s chair, Sue Adams at Tuesday’s council meeting. “The committee is ever cognizant of the importance of the long-term value and responsibility in investing funds to provide optimum return in 2013, but also looking to increased economic viability in the future.”
Criteria for augmentation funding are identified by the FE&A committee as events that align with the Whistler brand, deliver a positive economic impact through room night growth, media exposure and the enhancement of the resort’s reputation as a sport and culture destination. Consideration was also given to events that could boost room nights during slow periods in the resort.
Planning for the 2013 events program was made easier by the RMOW’s decision to release $1.2 million in RMI reserves in the summer, months ahead of the province’s funding announcement, which typically comes in March.
Half of the events invited to submit proposals — the World Ski and Snowboard Festival, Crankworx, the Whistler Film Festival, Wanderlust, GranFondo, the Children’s Art Festival and Cornucopia — received augmentation funding. The total augmentation monies awarded in 2013 was $922,00 nearly double the amount from last year. The total amount requested was roughly $1.78 million.
When the funding proposal requests were sent out, the RMOW stated that funds were already set aside for Tough Mudder, a large driver of room nights last year that will receive $112,000 in 2013, and Ironman, the popular triathlon that was awarded $250,000 in augmentation funds, more than any other event producer this year.
The RMOW stated in October that $100,000 of the $250,000 in RMI monies would go towards a licensing fee, but municipal spokesperson Michel Comeau said Wednesday (Feb. 6) that that information was inaccurate.
As Ironman will be held in Whistler for the first time this August, the augmentation funding will not go towards expanding the event’s existing programming, but rather go towards production costs and increased municipal services during the event.
“When you think about augmentation, the interpretation can be pretty broad,” said Roger McCarthy, the council-appointed representative on the FE&A Oversight Committee. “Is Ironman going to be bigger than it was in Penticton? I don’t know the answer to that, but I’d take a calculated guess and say that probably it is going to be bigger because it’s going to be in Whistler.”
Three other events that were looking for augmentation funds — the Squamish Lil’wat Centre’s Spirit Within Festival, the Readers and Writers Festival and the Longboard Festival — will split $84,000 for testing and development to gauge those events’ future economic potential.
“Test and development is us planting those saplings from which we hope will grow mighty oaks over the years,” said FE&A Oversight Committee member John Rae.
Similarly, the RMOW, in conjunction with Tourism Whistler, will administer economic impact assessments for 10 events this year, some of which were not awarded RMI funds for 2013.
The FE&A committee will also invest $730,000 into its own original programming, which includes the Whistler Presents summer concert series, Canada Day festivities, and performances by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at Olympic Plaza.
An additional $370,000 will go towards Village animation like street entertainment and the weekly Fire and Ice show.
Non-programming FE&A monies going towards operational support, marketing and administration total nearly $443,000.
Some local event producers weren’t satisfied with the outcome of the funding decision, with some expressing concern over the clarity of the committee’s criteria for augmentation monies.
“We’re very grateful for the FE&A augmentation investment for the 2013 Whistler Film Festival, but we are, however, disappointed and astonished in the (28) per cent variance from 2012,” said the Whistler Film Festival’s executive director Shauna Hardy Mishaw, who received $125,000 in augmentation funds in 2012, the same amount they requested this year. They were given $90,000 for 2013.
Hardy Mishaw feels like the festival met all of the FE&A’s funding criteria by increasing attendance in 2012 by 20 per cent, media exposure by 52 per cent and bringing in an estimated $5.1 million in economic impact for the province.
“We’re questioning how this kind of decision helps build Whistler as a centre for arts and culture,” she added.
The Whistler Half Marathon’s race director Dave Clark — who was denied the $26,000 he requested — also expressed concern over the funding approval process, saying his race, scheduled during shoulder season in June, met the criteria provided to him by the RMOW.
“What strikes us as odd is that some of the rational for funding presented to council (Tuesday) appears to be contradictory to the guidelines we were provided in the application process,” he wrote in a statement to The Question. “There are events that appear to have in fact received funding for event operational expenses rather than true augmentation programming.”
The FE&A’s funding decisions were based on extensive research conducted by Tourism Whistler, consisting of onsite event surveys, online regional research, economic impact assessments, summer visitor surveys, and more.
The RMOW expects to announce more programming details for the year next month.