Aspen council discusses pro cycling event |

Aspen council discusses pro cycling event

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen City Council members had a few questions Monday about city staff’s plans for hosting the USA Pro Cycling Challenge this August but generally went along with the details.

On Aug. 22 and 23, Aspen will host two separate phases of the second-year professional bike-racing event in Colorado. Riders starting in Gunnison will drop into Aspen from Independence Pass on Aug. 22, racing to a finish line on Main Street near Paepcke Park. The next day, they will start the race’s next stage on Main Street in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse, going back up the pass on their way to their ultimate destination in Beaver Creek.

Last year, Aspen hosted the finish of the Aug. 23 “Queen Stage,” the second day of the seven-day event, which also started in Gunnison and finished on Aspen’s Main Street in front of the courthouse. It was a rainy and windy day, visitor-dependent businesses reported slow-to-fair sales, and a lot of other things didn’t go as planned, but organizers said they learned from the first-year mistakes in planning for this year’s race.

Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of special events, spoke of how the operating budget for hosting the event will increase by $100,000. However, the city will contribute the same amount from its general fund as it did last year: $100,000. Another $287,000 toward the $387,000 budget will be covered by sponsorships, vendor fees, merchandise sales and marketing funds from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

Another change from last year’s event will be the location of the downtown parties for the Aug. 22 stage that rolls into Aspen. An area near Original Curve will be utilized as a “Local’s Corner” celebration with a beer garden, jumbo TVs and prime viewing for spectators as the riders enter their final stretch. Also, Paepcke Park will be the scene of what’s being tabbed as the “Finish Line Festival” with a beer garden, jumbo TVs, vendor booths and live entertainment.

Last year, a vendor exposition, a beer garden and live music were located at Wagner Park, but it was far away from the racing action. Rainy weather coupled with a poor-quality broadcast feeding the jumbo TV made it perhaps the least-populated spot for visitors and locals interested in the race.

Another change will involve the location of the VIP viewing area. On Aug. 22, the tent will be set up on Main Street across from Paepcke Park, where the Finish Line Festival will be held. So that VIP spectators will have prime viewing of the next stage’s start on the morning of Aug. 23, the tent will be relocated to an area of Main Street near the courthouse.

“It’s a very ceremonious morning (on Aug. 23) versus kind of a fast-paced evening (on Aug. 22),” Lesley told the council. “So it’s more friendly to those people who want to get, I would say, up close and personal to the riders.”

Councilman Steve Skadron asked if there would be a beer garden for the second-day start on the morning of Aug. 23. Lesley said that option is open to the city. Mayor Mick Ireland suggested placing the Original Curve/Local’s Corner jumbo TV and beer garden at the park next to No Problem Bridge in order to accommodate a larger number of people.

Skadron also asked whether local vendors will have an opportunity to sell race-related merchandise in the weeks leading up to the event. Last year, local vendors didn’t get the T-shirts and other items until a day or two before the race. Lesley said the official race-connected merchandise will be available to retailers much earlier this year. Councilman Derek Johnson said the sales of official event items doesn’t amount to a whole lot of money and won’t make or break a retailer’s month.

There also was talk about the length of the festival being planned for Paepcke Park. Last year, after cyclists rode into Aspen in the afternoon, the local celebration came to an abrupt end and visitors who came in for the race were left with little to do other than shop downtown or eat in local restaurants.

Lesley said plans are under way to stretch out the party for a few more hours. She also suggested that this year’s message concerning city parking rules and street closures to visitors coming into Aspen for the event won’t be as stringent as it was last year, when some people might have been scared away from the festivities.

In other business at Monday’s City Council work session, council members went along with the Parks and Recreation Department’s original plan for a new $200,000 restroom building at Rio Grande Park. The location will remain the same as initially envisioned, directly north from a small wetlands-drainage area that will separate the park from Theatre Aspen’s new tent structure.

Designs consist of two buildings with composting waste systems, linked by an overhang atop an open breezeway. At a work session last month, Councilman Torre questioned the proposed location as well as the design, citing safety reasons. On Monday, he said he could go along with the original plan after noting that he couldn’t come up with a better location.

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