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Crankworx up in the air after W1 bows out

Intrawest sponsorship deal with Telus believed to be at heart of conflict

The producers of Whistler’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival have ended negotiations with the Whistler Events Bureau regarding management of Crankworx, Whistler’s summer bike festival.

Doug Perry, founder of the WSSF and head of W1, the organization that produces the April festival, believes the ramifications of the failed negotiations could affect other independent event producers.

However WEB, which is comprised of representatives from Whistler-Blackcomb, the municipality and Tourism Whistler, has suggested that this is just a simple case of negotiations breaking down.

Details on the confidential negotiations between WEB and W1 are still not public but discussions have revolved around a Canada-wide sponsorship deal between Intrawest, which owns Whistler-Blackcomb, and Telus.

This is a deal that some believe could block producers who want to organize events on Intrawest property, from signing other telecommunications sponsors.

Telus has a big presence in Whistler and has been looking for ways to shore-up that position after it was out-bid by Bell Canada to be the official telecommunications supplier to the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Whistler-Blackcomb’s Rob McSkimming said Intrawest had renewed its contract with Telus "in the last couple of months" but he was adamant that this would not affect the efforts of event producers to lure other telecommunication sponsors in the future.

"Ultimately it was one of those business things that we couldn’t come to an arrangement on," McSkimming said of the negotiations with W1.

"Did it have something to do with sponsorship and things related to that? Yeah, but that specifically has to do with W1 and Crankworx rather than anything beyond that.

"In terms of how we’ve handled sponsors, nothing’s really changed."

According to Arlene Schieven from Tourism Whistler, John Rae from the RMOW and McSkimming, WEB is no longer in negotiations with W1 and Perry was not prepared to discuss details either.

"W1 is currently not involved in the management and production of any events owned by the Whistler Events Bureau (WEB)," said Perry.

"With regard to WEB's Crankworx event for 2005, regrettably W1 is not in a position to offer comment at this time."

The Whistler Events Bureau, or WEB, was formed to work on a resort wide sponsorship plan and to ensure that event producers would not sign conflicting sponsorship contracts.

WEB and W1 were negotiating a contract to produce the Aug. 3-7 Crankworx because some stakeholders were not happy with how IMG produced last year’s Crankworx.

While IMG did a good job with the FIS World Snowboarding Championships, the feeling was that there needed to be more community involvement in Crankworx, so other expressions of interest were sought and W1 was an obvious choice.

W1 first advertised that they were going to produce the Crankworx festival not long after the festival ended last year. At that time Perry stressed that the advertisement, which was on the company’s website, was put there so W1 would be in a position to attract sponsors.

The Crankworx advertisement has since been removed from W1’s website.

The result is that WEB is now searching for another event producer for Crankworx.