The Grinch Who Stole New Year’s

It became the “Grinch Who Stole New Year’s” for the Cripple Creek gaming community, which recently found itself confronting a new losing gambling card: Bogus and exaggerated weather reports.

Colorado Springs television stations reported the city getting shut down on the eve of the town’s annual end-of-the-year celebration, traditionally one of the more prosperous evenings for local casinos, due to a severe Arctic invasion. This news and associated snow storm footage from other parts of Colorado left many gaming establishments with much smaller crowds and leaner slot action than past years. And the ugly reporting barrage continued non-stop, with Colorado Springs video accounts of a 20-plus-car neighborhood pileup turning into a national sensation, adding insult to injury for Creek casinos and other area businesses that feature big New Year’s Eve bashes.

As a result, the New Year’s weekend became a bust for some local gaming establishments. That development was a definite byproduct of the Arctic temperatures and high winds, creating white-out conditions, along with an invasion of overblown, media weather accounts.

Faced with these kinds of odds, several elected leaders last week sought some way to initiate media damage control in the future, even if it includes not publicizing certain reports pertaining to Cripple Creek closures.

Sorry, but these reports are done for the benefit of public safety, concluded City Administrator Ray White. “It has a commercial impact,” admitted White, who didn’t see much of an alternative for the town to explore, other than to assure the information being broadcast by TV stations is accurate. The administrator agreed that recent reports indicating that government offices and even the entire city were closed Dec. 30 due to a devastating snow storm, weren’t helpful. In reality, the storm didn’t pose as many problems as predicted, but did lead to a few temporary highway closures and accidents.

In addition, the television footage of a bizarre pileup in Colorado Springs on New Year’s Eve, filmed by a Springs college student, created more perception problems for New Year’s Eve parties in the Creek, especially with the large number of revelers who usually come from the Springs. The scenes of cars colliding into each other in the area commanded national medial attention on all major cable outlets. “That didn’t help,” admitted White.

And some leaders wonder if certain public service weather announcements, which appear on Colorado Springs television stations, are necessary.

“That really affected the New Year’s Eve up here,” stated Councilman Steve Zoellner, in discussing the television announcements of Cripple Creek government closures. He questioned what action the city could initiate to counter negative weather reports. In many cases, the weather is much better in Cripple Creek than in Colorado Springs, when storms hit the Pikes Peak area.

“It’s a Catch 22,” added Zoellner. “We are really doing a disservice to the casinos.” He asked if the city could downplay government closure information, since most people frequenting these offices are from the district. Or if city workers could call a certain number to check on whether they have to work the day of a major storm.

But according to White, these announcements are done for the sake of the traveling public. “It is really for the safety of the public,” said the administrator.

White stated that the city could explore other ways to relay more accurate, up-to-date weather information.