Tonight would have been the Champions Dinner leading up to tomorrow’s World Cup cross country ski finals at Theodore Wirth Park, which were expected to draw upwards of 20,000. Like all major sporting events, the international races were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic—upending more than two years of work to bring the event back to America for the first time in two decades. It should have been a crowning achievement for the Loppet Foundation, which works to support winter recreation in the Twin Cities. Now what?
First, the Loppet Foundation has to settle up from the aborted event and surrounding four-day winter festival, which was estimated to cost about $2.5 million. The foundation’s executive director John Munger said he is in talks with vendors, but “much of that will be a sunk cost.”
“That kind of wreaked havoc on our budget,” Munger said. “It’s definitely left us in a place that’s not as rosy as we were hoping to end up after the World Cup.”
But he’s not giving up. Instead, the foundation is already setting its sights on 2022, which is the next opportunity for a World Cup event to be held in North America.
“There’s an army of volunteers who feel like there’s unfinished business, and they’d love to show what an actual world cup would look like here,” he said. “And I think the organization and staff feel that way as well.”
Dealing with the complex and unprecedented national emergency has led to a stronger connection between Loppet, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard organization, and the International Ski Federation, he noted.
“The business community here really stepped up to support this,” Munger said. “So, we feel really thankful to live in a wonderful community.”
Beyond the loss of the World Cup, the foundation is also dealing with the uncertainty of whether it will be able to run the rest of its events and programming in the coming months, which are Loppet’s bigger revenue sources, he said. Approximately 45 percent of the nonprofit’s revenue comes from registration, and another quarter depends on donations, grants, and membership funds, according to the 2018 annual report.
“So, a lot of question marks right now. I guess I’d just be surprised if the organization looks the same six months from now as it does today,” Munger said. “Because while we have this amazing staff and amazing team, we’re in for such a time of uncertainty that we’re probably going to have to make some adjustments.”
Right now the organization is figuring out what its next steps might look like, Munger said.
“I think the business community is going to want to look at important civic partners like us, and be ready to be a little flexible with how they interact with and support civic organizations like ours over the next month or more of changing landscapes."