VTS CEO Nick Romito and The Real Deal’s Hiten SamtaniOne of Blackstone’s smallest bets in real estate became a landmark vote of confidence in proptech — a fledgling sector at the time.In 2015, the investment behemoth paid $3.3 million for a stake in VTS, a cloud-based leasing and portfolio management platform. Though that was small change for Blackstone, it was a bet made at the highest levels of the firm, including then-head of real estate (and now president and COO) Jonathan Gray to then-CFO Laurence Tosi, recalled VTS founder Nick Romito.“For them, it was like $3 million — who cares? But they all cared,” Romito said.Things moved quickly from there, both for VTS and for proptech. The Blackstone investment valued VTS at about $35 million; four years later its valuation was $1 billion. It seems like everywhere you turn now, there’s a new major M&A deal in the category.Several startups are set to go public via SPAC, including virtual-walkthrough firm Matterport, home-insurance technology firm Hippo and iBuyer Offerpad (whose competitor Opendoor went public via SPAC in December).This month, VTS struck a $100 million deal to acquire Rise Buildings, an app that tracks tenants’ movements within an office building.The Real Deal caught up with Romito to discuss the Rise deal, the need for landlords to better understand their tenants through data, and how investor interest in proptech has evolved.When you started VTS, a lot of proptech startup founders had no background in real estate. Many have since dropped off the map.They were more your traditional, “I see a problem in a space, I’m so smart, I’m going to fix it.” The venture people thought that was great. The real estate community was like, “I don’t understand a word you’re saying to me. And so I would never buy what you’re selling.” Our industry is uniquely good at smelling bullcrap.Pre-pandemic, the office building was seen as a boring, stable, cash-flowing asset, which is why pension funds love office buildings in cities such as New York and L.A. You have to question that assumption now. Is your deal for Rise part of trying to help landlords figure it out?The first thing is getting as close to your customers as you can. It’s one thing that landlords have not been really good at. Their relationship is typically with the broker, or maybe the head of real estate for a company. But it’s not with the end user who’s in that building all day and night, who has real complaints or issues.We had strong conviction on this kind of tenant-engagement space about two years ago. It was the first time we had seen a category in proptech get so much hype so fast and see some venture capital pour into it. But we saw our customers pay attention. And that put our spidey sense up.“The first thing is getting as close to your customers as you can. It’s one thing that landlords have not been really good at.”It makes way more sense for that thing to be a feature in VTS than a standalone product. Because landlords and their teams are very busy. They have short attention spans and they’re not going to log into 14 things.And so we said, “We’re going to buy it. We don’t want to build it.” There’s too much blood, sweat and tears that have gone into these businesses.You’ve been through those fights. You’re at the point in your journey where you can decide between building it in-house or taking an M&A approach.One hundred percent. So we said, we don’t need the best sales and marketing team — we have a 12 billion-square-foot [commercial space VTS says is on its platform] channel. We need the best product.It’s nice to not have to build everything, because the same passion and obsession that we have for leasing and asset management, people have for other things. And there is a real multiple you can apply to that that is extremely valuable.And so as we thought about how we can help the landlord get ready for whatever the new normal is, it felt like one of the most critical things to do was to give them an application that allowed their end customer to have a much better experience in the building, and also allowed ownership to really keep a pulse on the happiness of that end customer.Read more from The REInterviewOffice landlords: Don’t eat before watching this Real estate’s biggest VC on the industry’s existential shiftsBill Rudin on remote work, property taxes and the future of tech leasing in NYC Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on LinkedinShare via Email Share via Shortlink Tags Let’s say Rise is in your system and it’s spitting out these insights. What happens next? What’s the process to then go to a Fisher or Rudin or Blackstone and say, “Hey, I think we have something here that you should think about?”Data for data’s sake isn’t all that valuable. And because most of our customers don’t have data science teams, they need their technology partner to actually help them make sense of that information.Just seeing a tenant’s sentiment in a building in isolation is interesting, but it’s not that actionable. If I see that compared to other trends about that tenant, such as how their existing rent compares to the market and when their lease expiration is, well, now I’ve got something to do. I know that this tenant is not happy. That lease expires in nine months. And by the way, they’re paying $30 [per square foot] below market.Or the flip side, which is that these tenants are extremely happy and their rents are at par, so they can’t play hardball.If you can’t see that and you can’t use that data in addition to the other stuff you have to know about that company, it just falls by the wayside.Have you ever been to Eleven Madison Park?Yes.It’s the extreme example of concierge dining. You walk in, they know your kids’ names and that your son may want his hot dog cut up on a plate. They use that experience to take the service to an incredible level. Is there any sign of, let’s call it “concierge commercial real estate,” where the landlord knows your preferences so intimately, that they can do stuff that makes you happier, that makes you just go, “Wow?”The expectation is going to be that I know what my customers want. Rise has this amazing patent on beacon technology [which tracks movement within a building.] They know what parts of the amenities or the restaurants or cafes are really getting used and at what times. So you start to understand all these things about individuals and the building itself. And you start to build strategies. You can give back to the customers in a way that feels bespoke to them.Even blue-chip landlords don’t necessarily have that kind of intimacy with their tenants. I wonder if that’s changing.It’s changing, at a slow pace. The technology helps. But like all things, it’s the people that have to make that change happen for you.What’s hopeful is you’re seeing owners hire for roles they haven’t historically had, whether that’s head of customer experience or data-science teams. They’re really trying to figure out how to make this stuff come to life.Let’s talk leasing. Brokers are creatures of transactions — they need them to stay in the business. Given where deal volume is, give us a sense of what’s going on.It’s not just the brokers, it’s the owners as well. Most of them have looked at 2020 and said, “We’re usually really busy, [now] we have time. Let’s spend this time kind of catching up on all these other things that we didn’t do before.” And a lot of that was around technology.The way that I looked at 2020 for the brokerage community and for owners, it’s almost the golden age of software for them. If the past five years was the golden age of TV, that just happened for real estate tech, because what Covid did was proved that the way that you did things does not work anymore.Where does your product go from here? You started with video tours and have completely evolved since.Today, the VTS operating system knows more about tenant demand in real time than anyone else. We can tell you how fast it’s coming back, which companies are looking, the size ranges of deals being negotiated, rents and tenant improvements.You can use that information as an owner to set your building strategy or decide, “Do I want to invest in that specific market or do I want to get out of that market?” You’re tracking all kinds of activity — which leads are hot, which are cold. And when those leads turn to an actual deal, you track that too.Typically, what happened was once that lease was signed, our work was done. Now with tenant engagement, you stay with the customer. And you get to actually monitor their happiness and do things to give them a better experience in the asset so that when it is time for renewal, you know their probability of renewal probably six months before you would have.As I think about where we go, our proprietary and unique market data is going to live everywhere. In every part of our OS, there will be market data to help you understand how you are doing versus the market, and, “Is this a good decision?” We think that a modern platform should do that. There are other branches you can go into on the marketing and leasing sides. Our challenge is to figure out which of those we build versus which ones we buy.You talked about how the landlord can look at the asset level and start slicing and dicing a property differently. Is anyone scaling that? Say, “Hey, I found that the third floor of my building is actually great for flex office. I own 100 buildings, let’s try this in multiple locations at once.”I wish I can give you names because you’d be blown away. But I think our data has supported a few billion dollars over the last four months of refinancings [on the strength] of asset strategies like that.The financing aspect is fascinating. Do lenders even understand what they’re looking at when it comes to that? You don’t want it to be like “Office Space.” We only launched this six months ago and it’s an entirely new dataset for our industry. We didn’t have a real-time view into demand. We had comps, which is largely a tenant who’s in the market a year ago — it’s in no way a forward-looking indicator.Whether you’re doing a refinancing or you’re trying to decide if you should renew someone early at a certain rent, we now have the data to support you. But it’s new, so we have to talk [clients] through what the data means.How patient is the capital that you’re working with? What’s their endgame?While Covid hit our industry perhaps harder than any other, the only silver lining for us was our customers needed us more than ever before.And so it meant going to our board and our investors [which include Brookfield, Tishman Speyer, GLP and Fifth Wall Ventures] and saying, “Hey, remember that budget we had? We have to rip it up. And I know you’re probably scared that it may be a bleak year for software companies, especially those in real estate. But we’re telling you, we have never seen this much activity with our customers in our 10 years of doing this.”We always optimized for running an efficient, really good business, not growth-at-all-costs where you’re constantly raising money. Because of that, we’ve earned the trust of our investors. And so, when we said we need an extra $10 million this year, they said, “We trust you, go do it.”Real estate SPACs are all the rage right now.What’s it called? SPAC? [Laughs]We’re keeping a very close eye on the market. I think the correction we saw a couple weeks ago was meaningful. There was too much froth out there. As this stabilizes, it’ll be interesting to see where things end up. That allows you as a company to really decide, okay, do we go out? Do we go public? Do we continue our current growth trajectory, maybe do a private round if we need to?Almost every funding round we’ve ever done, we could have gotten a higher valuation, but we opted for having the right partner who could help us. Lots of companies were like, “I want the biggest valuation and the biggest name.” And I’m like, “Good for you.”Seems like investor interest for proptech is massive.Proptech now has a real seat at the table. Every single venture fund has some percentage of that fund that is allocated towards it, which is pretty awesome. With all the SPACs, you’re going to have public proptech companies, which takes the legacy Wall Street investor and gets them into our space. And so you start talking to the long hedge funds, the BlackRocks of the world, the folks who are now investing in a lot of these SPACs and also just want to put money to work in real estate tech and be in there for the ride for a long time. That didn’t exist five years ago. It’s pretty cool to see that.Every time I speak to you, I have to ask: Are you profitable?No, we don’t want to be. We’re growing too fast.Any timeline on it?We can lever down growth at any point and be profitable. But the markets are not valuing that. All these public companies you’re seeing, the multiples are all about the growth. For us, it’s about growing as fast as we can, as efficiently as we can. We could probably grow faster, but it would increase burn to a point where I wouldn’t be super comfortable.You’re not doing private jets at this point.That’d be great, but no.“It’s competitively unfair if you are sitting back and your next-door neighbor is doing what we know they’re doing [with data]. You’re going to get smashed.”Is there potential to take what you’ve built and plug it into multifamily, into industrial, into even, God forbid, retail?We have billions of square feet right now using VTS for retail and industrial. Those are two big asset classes for us. Our growth in retail is primarily because [retail landlords] just need to do what they can to stay closer to their customers to find opportunities, because there’s not a whole lot of them right now.For the same reasons that retail is getting hurt, industrial is on fire. At the rate at which industrial owners are growing their portfolios, what they don’t want to do is have to hire the equivalent amount of people to manage that portfolio.What’s interesting about industrial is that ownership is so consolidated. Blackstone, Prologis, and a couple others control so much of it.In office, you’ve got market-specific versions of that — SL Green and Vornado in New York — but not nationally. Blackstone is one of the best in the world at getting conviction on a space and then just going and saying “we’re going to own that.” Their industrial arm, Link, is two years old.I’ve asked the Blackstone team and others: “What could possibly make industrial slow down?”If Amazon were broken up.That’s the only thing probably that could materially impact it.We have an industrial advisory board that meets every month, and it’s very different from the office and retail [conversations]. The industrial folks are like, “We send a [letter of intent] out. We tell the tenant, if you don’t sign by Friday, then the price goes up.” That’s the level of demand they have. That is not the conversation anywhere else.What kind of conversation would you have with a landlord who owns a major Class B building on Sixth Avenue?I would ask: How are you building your strategy?If you’ve got two floors coming available, how are you making the decision to divide those floors up or what finishes to put in, because we can now tell you that in this submarket, demand looks like this, let’s build this space, this specific way and capture that. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Class B owner or a trophy asset owner, you are now going to be building and executing a strategy based on real market demand.The reality is not everybody acts on that information. So, the folks who do are always going to win. But I would probably say to the folks who think that they can kind of sit back and go back to normal: As someone who has a front row seat to the folks who aren’t thinking that way, you’re going to get smashed. The things that the owners are doing with data to make decisions and change the way they operate are material. It’s competitively unfair if you are sitting back and your next-door neighbor is doing what we know they’re doing. It’ll be a bloodbath for you.We’ll end on that highly optimistic note.This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.(Write to Hiten Samtani at [email protected] To check out more of The REInterview, a series of in-depth conversations with real estate leaders and newsmakers hosted by Samtani, click here.) Office LeasingProptechstartupsThe REInterviewVTS Share via Shortlink
Foodweb models provide a useful framework for compiling data on biomass, production, consumption and feeding relationships. They are particularly useful for identifying gaps and inconsistencies in the data, and for exploring plausible scenarios of change. We compiled data on the pelagic foodweb of the South Georgia shelf, which is one of the most intensively studied areas in the Southern Ocean. The data suggest that current average annual copepod production is three times that of Antarctic krill and that flying seabirds and fish are, respectively, responsible for 25% and 21% of local krill consumption. The most striking inconsistency was that estimated consumption of fish was 5 times their estimated production. We developed a static mass balance model of the foodweb representing one of many possible solutions to the inconsistencies in the data. The model included sufficient fish biomass to balance the original consumption estimate, and consequently fish became the main krill consumers. Nonetheless, only 74% of local krill production was consumed by predators, suggesting that there are additional mortality sources that we did not explicitly model. We developed further models to explore scenarios incorporating plausible climate-driven reductions in krill biomass. In scenarios with unchanged predator diets, an 80% reduction in krill biomass resulted in a 73% reduction in vertebrate biomass. However, when predators with diverse diets were able to switch to feeding on alternative zooplankton prey, total vertebrate biomass was maintained at current levels. Scenarios in which 80% of krill biomass was replaced with copepod biomass required 28% more primary production because the estimated consumption rate of copepods is higher than that of krill. The additional copepod biomass did not alter the consequences for vertebrates. These scenarios illustrate the wide range of potential consequences of a shift from a krill to a copepod dominated system in a warming climate. They suggest that both maintenance and dramatic reduction of vertebrate production are plausible outcomes, although the former requires major changes in predator diets.
On Tuesday JCR Presidents took part in a run designed “to help to get people talking about cancer, and the impact of cancer on people’s lives at university.”JCR Presidents from eleven colleges, along with Hannah Cusworth, OUSU Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs, ran around University Parks. Some ran for half an hour and others for longer. The presidents from LMH and St Hugh’s, Phil Schroeder and Sara Polakova, ran the first 1.5-mile lap as a three-legged pair.The event was masterminded by Helen Robb, JCR President of St Anne’s. She told Cherwell that her motivation for organising the run was to remove taboos about discussing cancer and to raise awareness of ovarian cancer in particular. She also hoped she might be able to raise awareness of her own fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Relief and that she could get some of the other presidents running.Robb explained that her interest in ovarian cancer derives from the difficulty of diagnosing the cancer, and from her mother’s experiences with it. Possible symptoms include “bloating, losing weight, gaining weight, feeling a bit sore, feeling a bit tired”, meaning that Robb’s own mother was only diagnosed after four or five visits to the doctor.Robb said, “Events like this get people talking and help everybody to deal with their difficulties a little better, and be more aware of those problems which may affect others.” She believes that the taboo can cause “two months of feeling really alone” in cancer sufferers or those close to them, by preventing friends from understanding what they are going through.Robb plans to run the Great North Run, a half marathon, in September. Her original fundraising target, £918 (the wages of a Macmillan Cancer Relief nurse for a week) has already been surpassed. Robb also writes a blog on her personal experiences of cancer.Exeter President Benjamin Clayton commented, “This is a great idea from Helen. Hopefully we can do everything we can to raise awareness of something which affects nearly everyone, either directly or indirectly. I think that today we can hopefully raise a bit of awareness, and that people reading Cherwell will think they can get involved, no matter how much. I hope it’s a good day with some solid running.”Beatrice Graham, Trinity JCR President, told Cherwell, “I think it’s really nice how frank and honest Helen’s blog is. Pretty much everybody is affected by cancer at some point in their lives, whether personally or through friends or family, and it’s really good to read about someone who’s having such a personal experience with it but is ready to share and break down the taboo that is still associated with it.”Runners from Corpus, Exeter, Hertford, Jesus, LMH, New, Queen’s, St Hugh’s, St Anne’s, Trinity and Wadham took part.
Congratulations to Mohammed and all this year’s nominees. It is fantastic to see so many bright young people celebrated not only for their academic achievements but also for the work they are doing with their local community. The Lord Glenamara Memorial Prize was created in memory of former MP for Newcastle Central, Ted Short. The winner and nine runners-up had the opportunity to tour the London School of Economics (LSE) campus, and met with the Education Secretary and Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education, Jonathan Slater. Following the award, Mohammed will be undertaking a two day work experience programme at the Department for Education’s offices in London.The government has made clear its commitment to support schools and pupils in the north through the Northern Powerhouse Schools Strategy, a £70 million fund to improve education.Notes to editors:The runners-up in alphabetical order: To be even nominated for this highly regarded award was a blessing, but to come out as a winner is something I will be forever grateful for. I’d like to thank my sixth form tutor and the sixth form team for having the faith in me by nominating me, and also my teachers, family and friends for keeping me motivated in order to aspire to achieve high results. I hope to inspire younger students to contribute to their society, whilst also maintaining excellent grades. This in itself will be a great achievement for me. About the Lord Glenamara PrizeThe prize is open to school pupils in years 11 and 12 across the North East of England who have shown: An inspirational pupil from the North-East has been awarded a prize for his success at school and contribution to the wider community by the Education Secretary Damian Hinds today (Monday 26 February).An outstanding pupil who volunteers at a disability centre and helps pupils who speak English as an additional language has been awarded the Lord Glenamara Memorial Prize by Education Secretary Damian Hinds today (26 February).Mohammed Dagher, student from Heaton Manor School in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, received the Lord Glenamara Memorial Prize at a special event in London. He was recognised for his outstanding academic achievements and impressive voluntary work including providing one-to-one support and guidance to younger students who speak English as an additional language, producing an anti-bullying video and volunteering at a disability centre.The annual prize – which is now in its sixth year – recognises sixth form students from the North-East who have excelled in their studies while making contributions to their school or wider community.Academic standards are rising in England, with over 48,000 more pupils in the North-East in schools rated good or outstanding than in 2010 and 87 per cent of North-East schools given this rating at their last inspection.Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: strong academic performance across a range of subjects; and a civic contribution, particularly volunteering personal time for activities such as: mentoring younger pupils helping with extracurricular events working with a youth group or a charity outside school hours an interest in government, education, history or public service. Mohammed Baroudi, John Spence Community High School Emily Brown, Conyers School Kate Cowan, Carmel College Niamh Hughes, St Thomas More Roman Catholic Academy Devika Jayan, St Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy Sarah Knight, St Anthony’s Girls’ Catholic Academy Emily McKerill, St Wilfrid’s R.C. College Emmet O’Leary, St Robert of Newminster Catholic School and Sixth Form College Ellie Rylance, Grindon Hall Christian School 2018 award winner Mohammed Dagher said:
Sainsbury’s is the only supermarket among the top four retailers to improve its market share in the last 12 weeks, experiencing a 4.6% growth rate year-on-year.Research firm Kantar Worldpanel revealed the latest grocery share figures, for the 12 weeks to 17 February, revealing both Tesco and Asda saw a year-on-year (YOY) decline in market share of 0.4% and 0.1% respectively.Morrisons was reported as the only supermarket retailer to post a sales decline, and dropped 0.6% YOY taking its current total market share to 11.8%.The research firm said the overall results revealed the impact of the first five weeks of the horsemeat scandal, which broke in January.Edward Garner, director at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “So far the issue has only affected the performance of individual markets rather than where consumers are choosing to shop. For the four weeks ending 17 February, frozen burger sales were down by 43% and frozen ready meals declined by 13%, clearly demonstrating a change in shopping habits.“Tesco’s share has come under pressure during this period, with a drop from 30.1% a year ago to 29.7% now. It might seem natural to attribute this decline to the horsemeat contamination; however, Tesco undertook heavy promotions this time last year, where consumers received a £5 voucher when they spent £40, and not repeating this offer will have adversely affected its share.”He added that Waitrose and Aldi delivered all-time record shares during the period of 4.8% and 3.3% respectively, indicating a market polarisation and the continuation of the ‘two nations’ consumer climate.Iceland also reported a 10.1% record growth, which Garner said confirmed the frozen food category as a whole remained robust.Grocery inflation stood at 4.3% for the 12-week period to 17 February, which Kantar Worldpanel said remained higher than the market growth of 3.7% and reflected shoppers’ coping strategies of switching products and retailers and seeking out offers.
Beloved producer Aphex Twin spent many years out of the limelight, only to make a triumphant return not too long ago. Though Aphex released a lot of music upon his return, he kept fairly hidden from the public eye until his name surprisingly appeared on the Day For Night Festival lineup earlier this year.Before long, Aphex Twin was performing live for the first time in America since 2008, dropping some tunes for the fans assembled at the Houston, TX event. Check out some videos from the night below. As you can see, Aphex Twin clearly means business with an incredible stage production set up. He also sold a mysterious new record at the show, indicating that perhaps more new music is on the way. Let’s hope he keeps this up with more new performances and music soon!
Read Full Story The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) has elected Swati Piramal, M.P.H. ’92, to serve a six-year term as Overseer. Piramal joins Walter Clair, A.B. ’77, M.D. ’81, M.P.H. ’85, as one of only two HSPH alumni, and the only alumna from India, on the 30-member board. Also elected as Overseers were Scott A. Abell, A.B. ’82; James E. Johnson, A.B. ’83, J.D. ’86; Tracy P. Palandjian, A.B. ’93, M.B.A. ’97; and Kathryn A. Taylor, A.B. ’80.Piramal has used her background in medicine, public health and business to change the trajectory of health care, education, and public policy in India. She is the director of Piramal Healthcare, a leading drug discovery company which aims to bring affordable medicines to reduce the burden of disease globally. As director of the Piramal Foundation, she helps promote health in rural India with mobile health services, women’s empowerment projects and supporting community education that create young leaders.The first woman president of India’s Apex Chamber of Commerce in 90 years, she helped influence important public policies and governance. She is an adviser to India’s Prime Minister in science, technology and industrial policy and was awarded the 2012 Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards for distinguished contribution to the nation. She has helped organize faculty study programs, student internships including President Faust’s recent trip to India, in life sciences and business. Piramal earned her medical degree, an M.B.B.S, from Mumbai University in 1980 and her M.P.H. in international health from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1992.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has named two lawyers to his impeachment defense team, one day after it was revealed that the former president had parted ways with an earlier set of attorneys. The two lawyers representing him will be an Alabama attorney, David Schoen, and a former prosecutor in Pennsylvania, Bruce Castor. Several South Carolina lawyers who were set to represent Trump at the trial starting next week have left the team. Trump is the first president in American history to be impeached twice. He is set to stand trial in the Senate on a charge that he incited his supporters to storm Congress on Jan. 6
Caitlin Acherl, a junior in the Saint Mary’s ROTC program, agreed with Spittler. “[The change] is about better utilizing the tickets we distribute so the people who need them are getting them. We are happy to pay for the meals of students who have a demonstrated need to be on Notre Dame’s campus,” Johnson said. Beginning this semester, Saint Mary’s students will only be able to apply for a Co-Ex ticket if their commitments to classes or organizations at Notre Dame prevent them from eating during normal Noble Family Dining Hall hours, according to the e-mail. Sophomore Genevieve Spittler was a member of the Saint Mary’s swim team last year. Because practices were held at Notre Dame, she said she often missed College dining hall hours and used the Co-Ex policy to eat at Notre Dame. Saint Mary’s and Sodexo, the College’s food service company, pay the for the number of Co-Ex meals each day because the meals are not included in an individual student’s meal plan, the e-mail said. According to the e-mail, the existing policy allowing Notre Dame students to eat at Saint Mary’s has not changed. “We never had problems getting Co-Exes,” she said. “I understand the fact that [Saint Mary’s] needs to keep a budget,” she said. “However, I think they can limit the number of tickets while still keeping students happy.” “[The program] may exist for decades to come, but with a more focused intent. The program is not being eliminated,” Karen Johnson, vice president of student affairs at Saint Mary’s, said in an e-mail to the College student body. “It is being managed in a more efficient manner, so that Saint Mary’s students with a demonstrated need to be on Notre Dame’s campus at mealtime will get the Co-Ex tickets.” Recent revisions to the Saint Mary’s Co-Exchange (Co-Ex) food services program have prompted College students to start a petition in opposition to the changes. Two of the event’s creators — juniors Maggie Pinnick and Grace Kenesey, who is a member of The Observer’s photography staff — plan to present a 300-signature petition to College President Carol Ann Mooney. The former Co-Ex program allowed Saint Mary’s students to use one of their meal swipes to receive a ticket to eat dinner free of charge at one of Notre Dame’s dining halls. In recent years, seventy-five daily tickets were offered on a first-come, first-serve basis, according to an e-mail sent to Saint Mary’s students explaining the policy change. According to Johnson, the former policy often prevented students with commitments at Notre Dame from obtaining tickets. Several College students created a Facebook event titled “We Want Co-Ex’s Back” to protest to the new Co-Ex policy. Students who join the event are encouraged to leave their e-mail address and short paragraph about the how the revision of the Co-Ex policy affects them. Saint Mary’s students who do not fit these criteria must pay full price to eat at Notre Dame.
As the dust settles on Snowshoe and riders return to their respective corners of the world, it’s not clear what the lasting impact will be on the four-season resort and the surrounding Pocahontas County. According to the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the World Cup was predicted to bring over 10,000 visitors and anywhere from $1.5 to $2 million in economic impact. Yet even with perfect conditions, the weekend served up a heaping plate of drama for the tenth and final race in the World Cup series. For two-time downhill, national champion Neko Mulally—whose downhill racing career started at Snowshoe—the final World Cup was over before it even started. Mulally broke his fibula during a training ride on Thursday and was forced to watch the World Cup in his soft cast from the sidelines. On Sunday, all eyes were on the elite women’s cross-country race, where American rider Kate Courtney was sitting in second place overall, 73 points behind three-time overall world cup champion Jolanda Neff from Switzerland. The two women have been battling it out all season long and that tension was on full display as the starting field sprinted through the Village. Courtney’s win on home turf in front of a home crowd is significant in more ways than one. It was exactly one year ago to the day that Courtney earned the rainbow jersey at the 2018 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, becoming the first American to win that title in 17 years. This weekend, Courtney again made history as the first American to win the overall World Cup title since Alison Dunlap in 2002 (also 17 years ago). Courtney and Neff were hot on each other’s wheels for much of the first lap. Short, punchy, and relentless, the cross-country course required riders to keep speed through every flavor of terrain, from grassy doubletrack to chunky rock gardens and off-camber root-laced shoots. While Courtney sailed through that first lap, Neff dropped out of the lead pack, eventually finishing in 11th place. Courtney stuck with the front riders and finished fifth in the race (with fellow American Chloe Woodruff less than a second behind). Courtney’s top-five finish put her 30 points ahead of Neff, thereby securing the overall World Cup win. Though Mulally was not able to prove his finesse on Snowshoe’s demanding track, American rider Charlie Harrison did represent the stars and stripes on the podium, eeking out a third-place finish amid a stacked field. Harrison and North Carolina rider Luca Shaw finished 19th and 20th respectively in the overall series. “This particular project really seemed to be a catalyst for understanding what tourism can bring to a community and how it can offer long term economic development,” says Pocahontas County CVB Executive Director Cara Rose of the IMBA designation. “It has really pulled us together and given us future goals to look forward to now.” Eric Lindberg, president of Pocahontas Trails (the local IMBA chapter) and a Pocahontas County resident, agrees. He says mountain biking related tourism is good not only for the local economy but also for the trails in the remote and rugged Monongahela National Forest. “Anytime you bring 10,000 people to a rural area like Pocahontas County, everybody benefits,” says Snowshoe Director of Risk and Business Services Preston Cline. “We expect a pretty significant trickle down effect. I think the community has embraced [the World Cup] better than they do skiing which is hard to believe since skiing is our major source of income for the county.” “Snowshoe is one of the first places I started mountain biking when I was a kid. It feels like home,” Mulally said after the incident. “The medical people almost cried when I came in because they knew who I was. It’s just a bummer, but it’s nice that people care that much. I’m just disappointed I wasn’t able to get out there and show what I can do.” That local support might be bolstered by the fact that the International Mountain Bike Association recently awarded a bronze-level Ride Center designation to the Snowshoe Highlands. The designation recognizes 300 miles of singletrack in the area, including the resort’s bike park and 11,000-acre backcountry trail system. Mother Nature was uncharacteristically cooperative this weekend at the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Mountain Bike World Cup finals at Snowshoe Mountain. The skies were cloudy but never stormy. The temperature was warm but breezy. And the trails were dry (dare I say, dusty?), hardly the greasy course that racers had been warned about. The biggest event in mountain biking returned to American soil this weekend at Snowshoe Resort. “All of this attention from the World Cup and Ride Center designation is getting the community to step up and better support the trails,” he says. “That attention forces the Forest Service and Snowshoe and the state parks to keep upping their game both for improving the quality of the trails and for putting in new trails. When Snowshoe hosted the NORBA [National Off Road Bicycle Association] series and the 24 Hours races, this place was big, then it started to fade away. I think we’re back on the upswing with renewed energy all around the area.”