Trail races, snow-sport competitions and agritourism events are some of the best ways to attract more visitors to Durango, according to a new report measuring the potential of the city’s recreational and entertainment assets.
The report, presented last week, was commissioned by the Business Improvement District.
The majority of Durango’s sporting facilities, including gyms, hockey rinks and fields, are already filling to capacity, the report said. But other venues for recreation, including the Animas River, the local trail system and the 450,000 acres of public lands in the county can accommodate thousands more visitors.
The area’s more than 250 miles of trails, for example, have a capacity of 3.8 million uses annually but see only about 2 million visitors each year, mostly in the summer months, the report showed.
There are many opportunities to host trail-based events in the spring and fall, as well as more snow-based events and cycling competitions, said Ian Barrowclough, an analyst with RPI Consulting, the company that produced the report.
“It’s important for marketing opportunities to put Durango out there as a gateway (to the San Juan Mountains),” he said.
Triathlons, climbing events and dog competitions could bring more people into the area, according to the report. Lake Nighthorse also will be a valuable resource for recreation events, Barrowclough said.
In the arts and entertainment sector, Durango has 29 venues, including museums, theaters and restaurants, that can potentially host revenue-generating events.
“We’ve got some great infrastructure here, and it’s really easy to get to,” Barrowclough said. On average, the city reaches only about half its capacity for hosting arts and entertainment events, the report said.
There are opportunities for more festivals, agritourism and events highlighting Durango’s historic resources, Barrowclough said.
The report estimated that more than 900,000 people attend arts, entertainment, historic or cultural events in Durango each year. One mid-sized event that attracts about 560 out-of-town visitors to the area generates $224,000 in total spending, the report said.
Because Durango’s economy is seasonally based, the report recommended the city focus on creating events that would attract people to the community during the spring and fall, when there is more unused capacity.
It’s also important to remember that every event doesn’t have to be a “home-run event,” said Andrew Klotz, a managing partner with RPI.
“It’s all about adding up tinier events,” Klotz said. “You don’t have to have the (Telluride) Bluegrass to succeed.”
Smaller events are also less burdensome to residents, he said.
The report provides evidence that many events beyond traditional downtown events are bringing people into town, said Tim Wheeler, owner of Durango Coffee Co. and a member of BID’s board of directors.
In commissioning the report, BID hoped to identify opportunities to attract more people to Durango and figure out how the organization can support growth in those areas, said Bob Allen, owner of Allen and Associates and chairman of the organization’s board of directors.
“I hope we can get this out to the public so event promoters can see what types of opportunities exist,” Allen said.