Included in the application for the Meadows’s Outdoor Theater is the result of an economic impact study of the largest event to be held on the property – the Seven Peaks Music Festival.
The report by consultant Alan W. Hodges was commissioned by the festival organizers based on the country festival’s 2019 outing, its second at the Meadows.
Sales tax records for the county show that year-to-year, the county actually brought in more revenue in 2020, when Seven Peaks and other large events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic: $9,687,111 in 2020 compared to $8,372,687, a 13.5% increase. In 2017, the first year Seven Peaks came to the Meadows, the county brought in $6,010,105. The year before that, the county collected $5,442,232, representing a year-to-year increase of 10.4%.
Between 2017 and the inaugural Seven Peaks event in 2018, the county sales tax returns grew by 9.1% to $6,557,166.
Chaffee County’s lodging tax revenues also increased from 2019 to 2020 from $835,688 to $837,624.
“It’s important to acknowledge that the COVID impacts are likely a confounder of economic data when comparing 2019 and 2020, given how many restrictions were in place over the last three quarters of 2020, including the later summer/fall months when Seven Peaks would have been normally been held. However, despite the absence of the Seven Peaks festival and impacts of COVID-19, the county remained on its strong financial trajectory and tourism growth during the past 13 months of the pandemic,” said county spokeswoman Beth Helmke. “While each business entity and sector has had unique experiences throughout the pandemic response and recovery, the overall data and reports from community leaders indicate Chaffee County and its municipalities experienced very strong sales tax growth and sustained tourism-related revenues in 2020, continuing the increases seen over recent years.”
Buena Vista sales tax returns tell a similar tale of growth unimpeded by a lack of special events: Between 2019 and 2020, yearly sales tax totals grew from $3,461,468 to $4,024,106, a 16% increase. From 2016 to 2017, yearly totals grew from $2,639,093 to $2,737,477, a 3% increase.
From 2017 to 2018, yearly returns grew by 10.2% to $3,017,175.
In its statement as a referral agency in the review process of the Meadows application, staff of the town of Buena Vista said of the festival happening right outside its municipal limits, “the town’s analysis indicates that the impact from previous festivals and events from the Meadows venue have done little to benefit the small businesses in the community.”
The referral document went further to say, “The large events proposed tend to dissuade tourists outside the event to visit the town. Even locals leave due to the invasive traffic and the high influx of people to the area.”
According to the report, Hodges found that Seven Peaks had 11,404 unique attendees, with 11,464 tickets being sold in various types of admission.
Of those, 69% of attendees were from the state of Colorado. In addition, 2% were from New Mexico, 1.7% from California and 1.6% from Texas, Hodges said. In total, 88% of ticketed attendees resided outside of Chaffee County.
Hodges also included results of a post-festival survey.
“In general, the audience for the Seven Peaks Music Festival could be characterized as middle-aged, well educated and affluent: 42% of respondents were under 40 years of age, 83% had a college degree or post graduate study and 88% had annual household income of $50,000 or higher, including 56% with an annual income of $100,000-plus.”
Most attendees (62%) stayed 3 nights of the 5-night festival, and 73% camped at the festival site. Of those who didn’t camp at the Meadows, 3.8% camped at other locations, 6.6% stayed with friends or relatives, 4.8% stayed at hotels and 9.5% used “other rental accommodations.”
Of the 1,474 respondents who answered questions related to visitor spending, Hodges determined an average total spending per person of $315.65. Hodges broke that amount down to an average of $99.83 for groceries and supplies, $78.47 for car expenses, $52.29 for “eating out,” $37.84 for “going to bars”, $27.51 for other activities and $19.72 for other entertainment outside the festival.
Applying those figures to the total ticketed attendees, Hodges estimated total visitor spending over the Labor Day weekend festival at $3.6 million, with $3.15 million coming from non-residents of the county.
Hodges did not disclose the production expenditures or revenues of the festival “to protect their confidentiality,” but did say that staffing for the event involved 1,483 people representing 7,730 person-days.
Based on economic input-output modeling provided by IMPLAN, Hodges further estimated that the festival’s economic impact in Chaffee County and Colorado equated to 144 full-time or part-time jobs, $4.09 million in labor income, $7.3 million in value-added gross domestic product and $13.55 million in industry output or business revenues.
Those impacts included 69 jobs and $6.94 million for event production expenses, 32 jobs and $3.1 million output for applicable event revenues and 43 jobs and $3.5 million output for visitor spending.