Balloon Classic likely to remain in Colorado Springs next year, 2015 uncertain

By Matt Steiner Updated: December 12, 2013 at 5:59 pm • Published: December 12, 2013 | 5:20 pm 0
photo - Balloonists lift off from Memorial Park Monday, September 3, 2012, the final day of the 2012 Colorado Balloon Classic. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Balloonists lift off from Memorial Park Monday, September 3, 2012, the final day of the 2012 Colorado Balloon Classic. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Organizers of the Colorado Balloon Classic took the first step in November to ensure that the annual Labor Day event will take off once again in Colorado Springs.

The organization that has run the five-day show at Memorial Park since 1977 submitted its application Nov. 27 for the 2014 event. The move comes less than a year after the long-time relationship between the Colorado Balloon Classic and the City of Colorado Springs was nearly deflated after a spat over expenses.

"The goal of the Balloon Classic has always been to stay here," said President and CEO Patsy Buchwald. "We have been working toward that the entire time."

Buchwald said she and Balloon Classic organizers were surprised last spring when they received a bill for more than $6,000 in police costs after an announcement that roads around Memorial Park west of downtown Colorado Springs would be closed during the 2013 event.

The initial squabble was settled in July when City Council member Helen Collins led an effort to find money to pay for the barricades and police expenses. The money was eventually taken from the city's Lodgers & Automobile Rental Tax.

"We are assuming that the barricade costs will be picked up again," Buchwald said of 2014, noting that more roads are slated to be closed during the event next year.

The Balloon Classic paid a portion of police costs this year, something it has done for years. The city's total commitment was about $38,000, which included more than $20,000 for police services with the rest going toward fire department, parks and recreation and cleanup costs.

Despite resolving the problem for 2013, Buchwald is still keeping the door open for other opportunities. She said Thursday that the Balloon Classic has "had numerous offers both in state and out of state to move to another location."

According to city special events coordinator Brianna Goodwin, the next step in reconciling the long-term relationship will be in January. Goodwin's team and other officials will review the Balloon Classic's permit application. Once that's done, it will be up to Buchwald's organization to submit the proper paperwork for approval.

Buchwald is optimistic about 2014 and beyond, but remains leery of what might happen during the 2014 process. She said the lack of a long-term plan can be "very stressful," but understands that a faltering economy over the last several years has forced city costs upward.

"We have not made a commitment to Colorado Springs or another city for 2015," she said. "We need to get a little farther into 2014 and see how that's going to look."

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