When gold medalist Missy Franklin returned from London this summer, her hometown of Centennial congratulated her, along with six other Colorado athletes, with an Olympic-sized celebration, but some see the giant outdoor event as more of an Olympic-sized expense.
A breakdown of the city's invoices shows $57,909 in expenses for the Aug. 18 half-day fete hosted by Gov. John Hickenlooper, and for Centennial resident Jordan Rohde, that's too much.
“I have no problem in celebrating the accomplishments of these athletes,” said Rohde. “In fact, they should be recognized for their efforts; what I have a problem with is the way the city is spending money.”
Invoices from local vendors show the city was billed for more than $7,000 in catering, linens and fresh flowers, $15,000 in public relations charges and $33,000 for rental of a jumbo video screen, cameras, sound and lighting.
So far, the City has received only $2,500 in sponsorships to help offset the cost, but Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman and special events manager, said they are still waiting on additional sponsorship contributions.
Rohde asserts city officials should have considered more economical options to laud the athletes, such as proclamations.
Centennial Mayor Cathy Noon, who did issue a proclamation, says citizens wanted much more.
“The city was very pleased to host this event due to the overwhelming number of inquiries asking what the city was going to do for Missy Franklin upon her return from London,” Noon said. “When the event blossomed to include all Colorado Olympians, Centennial stepped up to provide the community the opportunity to meet with, honor, and celebrate the hard work of these remarkable athletes.”
“We got calls and emails from citizens who were asking for a lot of things,” explained Wittern. “We had people asking for everything from a ceremony to a parade down Dry Creek.”
But what did the taxpayer get out of it?
That's what Rohde wants to know.
The city said the value returned was in good public relations and feels the expenses are justified.
“This event was a tremendous opportunity to showcase our park, the city, and a great community — which leads to economic development, vitality, and contributing to the 49th place on Money Magazine's top 100 places to live,” said Noon.
“Had Centennial not seized the chance to host this event, someone else would have,” Wittern added. “The event was covered by every major media outlet, and that's good for the city.”
But Rohde remains skeptical.
“It's just the arrogance of power with which the city is spending money that frustrates me so much,” said Rohde. “And now they're asking to be released from TABOR-controlled spending limits?”
Cost breakdown for City's Aug. 18 Olympian Celebration
Item Vendor Cost
Award globes Performa Peak Mktg $2,348.10
Balloon arch Get Ballooned $320.00
Banner Fast Signs $431.26
Catering Tony Rosacci's $5,648.80
Tables and linens Event Rents $835.60
Radio rentals Radio Resource $204.00
Video screen, stage Richter Scale $33,385.00
Public relations Peter Webb PR $14,736.58
Denver South Economic Development $500
Xcel Energy $500
Brownstein Hyatt Faber Schreck, LLC $500