FORT KENT, Maine — At $5, event organizers are saying the daily cost of admission to the World Cup Biathlon venues in northern Maine next month packs tremendous value for the price.
This is the first year either the 10th Mountain Lodge in Fort Kent or Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle has tagged any admission fee to an event.
Hundreds of world-class and Olympic-caliber athletes, coaches, trainers and members of the international press will descend on northern Maine for two weeks of competition Feb. 4-6 in Presque Isle and Feb. 10-13 in Fort Kent.
In the past, spectators had free access to World Cup, junior world cup, Nordic ski championships and Olympic time trial competitions at both venues.
“This was a matter of discussion for several months,” 10th Mountain Venue Manager Dana Saucier said. “In the biathlon world, when you go to Europe the venue charge in terms of euros can be $20 to $25 per person for the day.”
Organizers, Saucier said, want to demonstrate the value associated with the World Cup events in northern Maine.
“Five dollars [a day] is pretty modest when the value you are getting is exceptional,” Saucier said.
At the same time, Saucier stressed that students 18 years old and under will not be charged for admission.
“We did not want to do anything that could inhibit any youth from attending,” he said.
The value of that $5 starts before spectators get near the stadium, Saucier said.
In Fort Kent, parking is provided at the four corners of the town with regular shuttle buses to the 10th Mountain Lodge and return trips to town.
“As you enter the stadium before the competition, there is a two-hour professionally prepared production on a huge video screen on different subjects,” Saucier said. “Following that they can view one of the most spectacular sporting events in the world.”
Once the races are over and spectators funnel into Fort Kent’s downtown, spectators have access to a variety of cultural, entertainment and musical events throughout town, such as the Chateaux du Festival constructed out of ice.
Free parking and a shuttle service also are provided in Presque Isle from the Parkhurst Siding Road to and from the Nordic Heritage Center.
Jane Towle, Presque Isle World Cup chief of media, said the Star City also would have cultural and entertainment events downtown throughout the competition, all free and open to the public.
Tickets for those events, Towle said, are not required.
It costs, Saucier said, more than $1 million to put on a World Cup Biathlon competition.
It is estimated the two events will draw more than 80 million viewers in Europe.
“Fifty percent of that cost will be defrayed by the [television] networks and the airing rights of the European networks,” he said. “The $5 admission can only help add to that.”
To expedite the flow of human traffic into the venues, Saucier recommends spectators purchase their color-coded, daily tickets ahead of time.
“The biggest bottleneck up on the mountain will come from those who do not pre-buy, and there are likely to be some lines,” Saucier said. “Those with tickets will be able to walk straight in.”
Tickets are available at Millers in Fort Kent and at the Forum in Presque Isle.
Tickets also are available online at Daily on-line tickets are $8 to defray the costs associated with accepting payments through PayPal, Saucier said.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.