ASPEN - Aspen City Council members are expected to pore over details today of a new contract with Classic Bicycle Racing LLC, owners of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, featuring a local budget that's $100,000 greater than what was spent last year on the event.
A work session is set for 4 p.m. at Aspen City Hall. A vote on the agreement is not expected until the council's April 23 regular meeting.
On Aug. 22 and 23, Aspen will host two stages of the professional bike-racing event. Riders will roll into Aspen from Independence Pass on Aug. 22 and will go back the way they came on Aug. 23. Last year, during the inaugural race, Aspen hosted the second-day Queen Stage, with cyclists dropping down to Aspen from the pass amid a light rain and strong winds.
"Aspen is in the unique and envious position of being the only host city on the entire 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge to be a finish and a start stage," said Nancy Lesley, city of Aspen director of special events, in a memorandum filed Thursday to the council.
The memo states that city staffers have three objectives in mind while planning for this year's version of the event. First, they want "to create a platform that the race organizers feel is well-organized, user-friendly to the racers and event staff, and so turnkey that they have no choice but to return year after year."
Second and third objectives call for creating an experience for spectators that will compel them to return to Aspen and making the event a good fit for the community.
The city's cost to host the event will be $387,000, up $100,000 from last year's expenditures, the memo states.
"Another difference this year is the (Aspen Chamber Resort Association) contribution," Lesley wrote. "Last year, we received a check for $50,000 from (the chamber), of which we allocated $30,000 toward operations and $20,000 toward marketing. This year the entire $50,000 stays with (the chamber) and will be utilized to market Aspen around this event."
Other changes are planned, according to the memo. At the one-day event in August 2011, the finish line was on Main Street near the Pitkin County Courthouse. This year's ending on Aug. 22 will be in the vicinity of Paepcke Park. A "finish-line festival" is being planned at the park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., complete with vendors, media broadcasts, a big-screen TV for race viewing, live entertainment and a beer garden. Last year, a similar event at Wagner Park was relatively unsuccessful because bad weather marred the video quality and hampered the tents that housed the vendors. A VIP tent will be erected across from the park on Main Street.
In addition to the festival, city organizers plan to create a "local's corner" based around Original Curve, the last corner until the final stretch on Main Street to the finish.
On Aug. 23, the next stage of the race will start at the spot where last year's event finished, in front of the courthouse. The VIP tent will move to that area of Main Street in about the same location as last year.
"There will be a beer garden, local vendors and a big-screen TV. We want to make this corner a big fun party, similar to the finish line but where potential action among the riders could happen. The goal is to make this corner so popular, so loud and so enthusiastic, the TV announcers have no option but to talk about how Aspen is THE place to be this year and how excited the fans are," Lesley wrote.
Of the $387,000 budget, $100,000 will come from the city's general fund - the same amount as in 2011. Chamber funds, sponsor and exposition sales, VIP tickets and merchandise will cover the balance, according to plans.