Eagle has not been the same since Kobe Bryant and the attention
he brought with him.
“There is definitely a sense of being uncomfortable in Eagle
that wasn’t there before,” said Ron Neville, general manager of
Arrowhead Property Management Co., Inc. “We went down to the Eagle
County Fair and there were media people walking around with
cameras. Every time you turn on the TV it’s in your face.”
Although Eagle has experienced visitors from Vail’s tourism
industry, its 3,500 citizens could not have prepared for the trial
that put the spotlight on this town.
Bryant, 25, is facing trial in Eagle for allegedly raping a
mountain resort employee in June.
“[Eagle is] small-town America, most everyone knows everyone,
middle to upper-middle class,” Neville said. “I don’t think Eagle
is as used to the tourism as Vail is. Eagle is where everyone who
works here lives.”
Because the Bryant case has occurred during Eagle’s slow season,
some say media may offer some financial benefits to the town.
“Financially this couldn’t have happened at a better time. The
big debate now is: Is any publicity good publicity?” Neville said.
“If a movie star comes here it’s usually because they don’t want to
have their picture taken.”
However some say complications may occur if upcoming trial dates
run consecutively with Vail’s busiest time for tourism.
“The tourists and the media won’t mix, it’ll impact the touring
industry- it’ll overrun,” Neville said. “(The media) are staying in
town and not leaving.”
Seth Reynolds, a 20-year-old Eagle native, can’t remember his
hometown ever being the subject of this kind of attention.
“Not that I can recall in my lifetime, and I don’t think people
from Eagle like it, its annoying having reporters everywhere,”
Reynolds said. “They set up all kinds of stages, interviews in the
middle of the street.”
The family of the accuser even put out a notice in a local Eagle
newspaper asking citizens to avoid the media.
“I know a lot of people in town don’t really talk to the media
anymore because the victim’s family asked them not to give
interviews anymore,” Reynolds said.
Every citizen notices the media and the Bryant case to a
different degree in Eagle.
Bob Zimmerman, who has lived in Eagle since the fall of 1971 and
is beginning his 33rd year teaching science at the county’s single
high school, says that Eagle is used to celebrities and isn’t the
small town that it was 20 years ago.
“We’re on I-70, celebrities come through here frequently. We
have our own businesses, we’re our own town,” Zimmerman said.
“Yeah, there are a lot of families that have been here for a long
time, but I used to know every student and it’s not that way
Zimmerman doesn’t feel overwhelmed by the media; he simply
avoids them when they’re in town.
“What most locals do when it’s busy like that, locals say, ‘OK,
we won’t go out this week,” Zimmerman said. “I don’t think locals
are feeling pushed out.”
Zimmerman’s students have had widespread reactions to all the
“I’m sure some of the kids got a kick out of seeing their faces
on national television, but unless it was today’s news I never
really hear people talking about it,” Zimmerman said. “Some kids
from the neighborhood she lived in have talked about people just
walking around knocking on doors. They’re digging to find things
that don’t exist.”
Some in Eagle may not take the media’s portrayal of this town to
be as accurate as the rest of the nation may assume.
“A lot of people get a laugh out of (media coverage), we’re just
like ‘who did you talk to?'” Zimmerman said. “They have stuff on
there that is so ridiculous.”
As for Eagle High School, where the accuser graduated over a
year ago, the administration will not tolerate any media
“The administration made it clear that if they’re even in the
parking lot we were going to jump all over them,” Zimmerman
One thing that most in Eagle seem to agree on is that the hype
will be short-lived.
“The longer they stay, the more they’ll fade into the
background,” Neville said. “I personally think in a year or two
it’ll be forgotten.”