City to help fund virtual Ice Fest

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Council pitches in $20K to cover costs of livestream, highlight video

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The city of Ouray will pitch in $20,000 to help cover the costs of livestreaming the Ouray Ice Festival next month and producing a highlight film that will be distributed after the four-day event.

City councilors unanimously agreed to the contribution Monday night at the request of Ouray Ice Park Executive Director Peter O’Neil, who has been busy the last few months coming up with alternatives to an in-person festival in light of COVID-19 restrictions. The festival is still scheduled to take place Jan. 21-24 but won’t offer any of the large, in-person events supporters are accustomed to attending.

The money for the livestream and highlight film will either come from the city’s tourism fund, which is subsidized by lodging taxes, or from Ice Park guide fees that are paid to the city annually, depending upon whether the footage for the highlight film will be in the public domain.

Unable to accommodate the 3,000 to 4,000 spectators who would normally gather in the Uncompahgre Gorge to watch the climbing competition, O’Neil is pivoting to a livestream of the event that officials estimate could be viewed by millions of people. He said organizations including the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation, Climbing Magazine, Rock and Ice Magazine and the American Alpine Club have all agreed to livestream the broadcast to their combined more than 4 million social media followers. He also noted the Ice Park has commitments from the Outdoor Channel and Altitude Sports to air the highlight film.

He said the cost of producing the three-day livestreaming event and subsequent hourlong highlight documentary is approximately $125,000. He’s secured close to $80,000 from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade and, with the city’s donation, hopes to get the balance of the money from the Colorado Lottery.

Councilor Ethan Funk called the livestream of the competition and highlight video “marketing gold” for the city.

“We are the one show on earth for ice climbing this year thanks to COVID,” he said.

The Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival in Montana, scheduled for this month, and the Michigan Ice Fest, scheduled for February, have both been canceled.

 

Push to regain access

to tourism website

Councilors informally agreed to direct City Attorney Carol Viner to seek to regain access to the city’s tourism website, ouraycolorado.com, after Markus Van Meter, a professional photographer with whom the city is contracting to provide digital marketing services, told the council the Ouray Tourism Office never turned over control of the website to the city. OTO has since changed its name to the Ouray Chamber Resort Association.

Van Meter recommended the city shift its online marketing efforts to visitouray.com and redirect all traffic from ouraycolorado.com to that website. He said he’s already purchased the visitouray.com domain name and will either donate it or sell it to the city for $1.

Van Meter, who also manages the city’s social media accounts, said he intends to focus messaging next year on ecotourism and responsible backcountry recreation in light of the heavy usage the Ouray County backcountry received this summer.

OCRA board member Gretchen McArthur disputed Van Meter’s assertion about ouraycolorado.com, claiming the OTO gave the city the passwords to the website in April. The City Council voted not to renew its contract with the OTO to provide marketing services and operate the Visitors’ Center after the contract expired at the end of March.

“We just don’t appreciate you blaming us for all this stuff when we gave you all this back in April,” McArthur said.

“Our experts would disagree with you,” Mayor Greg Nelson replied. “Thank you for your comment.”

 

Dig permit denied

Councilors voted 4-0 to deny a request from Forethought/Brainstorm Internet to be allowed to dig within the city right-of-way to install fiber internet infrastructure. Councilor Peggy Lindsey recused herself because her son-in-law is Kevin Karsh, owner of OurayNet, a competing internet service provider.

Sid Arnold, Western Slope operations manager for Forethought, said the company needs to complete construction in the alley between Fifth and Sixth streets and perform two bores underneath those streets. He estimated it would take a week to do the work.

The city typically prohibits digging in the city right-of-way after Nov. 1, although the council last month granted an extension allowing Deeply Digital to install fiber infrastructure through the end of the third week of November.

But as he did with Deeply Digital’s project, city Public Works Director Joe Coleman expressed reservation about digging into potentially frozen ground, noting there’s a 2-inch gas line that runs through the alley. He said he’d feel more comfortable waiting until the spring.

“We dug up on Fifth Street on Friday and I can tell you there’s frost in the ground. We found it. I’d be comfortable delaying this until the weather turns. I think it’s a little rushed. I think the window is missed,” he said.

 

Lease for massage therapist renewed

The council unanimously agreed to renew a one-year lease for The Colorado Kur health spa at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. Owner Mandy Simpson will pay the city $250 a month to lease the space for massage and other services.

Lindsey initially hesitated renewing the lease at an amount she considered too low, noting that when she was part owner of Healing Touch Therapies in the late 1990s she paid $350 a month in rent to lease space at the pool.

“We could really develop our pool into something great. But we can’t undervalue ourselves and do it,” she said.

But Finance and Administrative Services Director Melissa Drake said one of the reasons the rent is low is because nobody was interested in the space for a long time.

“And so we were getting no rent on it. The rent was negotiated over getting zero,” she said