DENVER - This year's USA Pro Challenge lured more than 1 million spectators to its 683-mile route across Colorado, organizers of the event announced Thursday.
The race, which included the finish of one leg in Aspen and the start of another, brought an estimated $99.6 million impact to the state, according to a study done by IFM North America, a global sports research firm.
"The crowds at the 2012 USA Pro Challenge were unlike anything I've ever seen outside of the big races in Europe," said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge, in a prepared statement. "Driving the course every day and seeing the enthusiasm and passion from the fans lining the streets really gave a sense of the growing support for the sport of cycling in the U.S."
The race, on Aug. 20-26, attracted spectators from at least 25 states, with the top five after Colorado being Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
A significant portion of the economic impact can be attributed to traveling spectators, according to the study. Both those fans from outside the state and Coloradans traveling 50 miles or more to take in an event stage contributed $81.5 million on lodging, food, transportation and entertainment. The remaining impact came from team, staff, sponsor and vendor spending, employment created by the event, and the resulting tax effects of the race.
Host cities, however, were expected to put up the race contingent in hotels and provide meals at no charge to the event. In Aspen, the lodging component required 700 rooms. The city of Aspen put $100,000 into hosting this year's event; local organizers hoped to raise another $250,000 through fundraising efforts, including the sale of VIP packages.
According to the study, 53 percent of spectators claimed they would not have traveled to Colorado at that time were not for the race. And, 75.8 percent indicated they're likely to return to watch the race next year.