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Aspen looks to offset lodges’ costs for Cycling Challenge

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen again is expected to provide 700 rooms to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, the bike tour that will make its second run through the state in August, but this time, it’s up to the community to compensate hoteliers for a portion of their costs.

“This year, the onus to pay for those rooms is on us,” said Nancy Lesley, director of special events for the city of Aspen.

Aspen was among plenty of cities and towns across Colorado bidding for a tour stop this year after the event’s successful debut in 2011. The resort is the only stop on the 2012 tour that will host both the finish of one stage and the start of another – one factor in the community’s rising budget to host the event, according to Lesley.

This year’s “working budget” is $385,000 and assumes a $100,000 contribution from the city of Aspen and $50,000 from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. Part of the cost reflects a reimbursement for the lodging that will be devoted to hosting the athletes, their entourages and others associated with the tour, Lesley said.

The tour requires 700 rooms to house 980 people, according to Bill Tomcich, president of local reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, who again is helping organize the lodging component for this year’s bike race. It’s the equivalent of one-third of the resort’s lodging for one night, but it will be spread over two nights – Aug. 21 and 22.

Last year, race organizers required a number of “comp” rooms that were donated to the tour, plus a number of discounted rooms. An allocation from the tour for the discounted rooms was pooled, and all contributing properties received a share as compensation. This year, the tour isn’t making that contribution to Aspen or to other host cities. Rather, Aspen’s organizing committee is taking on the responsibility for reimbursing local lodges and hotels for some of their costs, Lesley said.

Each host city has a local committee charged with working with tour organizers to stage the event and handle a mind-boggling array of details and requirements. Working out the lodging is but one task.

Last year, Aspen’s lodges recouped roughly one-third of the cost of providing rooms for the tour, Tomcich said.

“The lodging community has been incredibly generous and supportive,” he said. “We need to come up with some funds to compensate these properties. Without that, it would really be reaching to ask lodging properties to take that entire burden on themselves.

“There’s no way we could expect such broad support if we didn’t make up some of the cost,” Tomcich said.

The local organizing committee will work to sell sponsorships, exhibitor spaces, VIP packages and such to help fund local expenses, just as it did last year, according to Lesley.

Because the Pro Cycling Challenge arrives at midweek, during what would otherwise be a slow week, there are enough rooms available for the event, Tomcich said. But even if a hotel room had sat empty otherwise, providing it to the tour means the properties incur housekeeping and management costs, he noted.

With the tour finishing one leg in Aspen on Aug. 22 and starting another on the 23rd, resort officials anticipate more visitors will spend the night locally and catch both stages as the riders come and go over nearby Independence Pass.

One small lodge is already sold out on the night of Aug. 22 with visitors who want to see the bike race, according to Tomcich. That lodge will make all of its rooms available to the tour on Aug. 21, but most properties will divvy up their room contribution between the two nights so they have accommodations available to book to guests, he said.

Local organizers also are at work on a concert on Aug. 22 to keep the party going after racers cross the finish line in Aspen, giving spectators a reason to stick around in town, according to Lesley.

Another challenge this year will be feeding the tour. A substantial number of dinners and breakfasts must be provided, Tomcich said.

Last year, the St. Regis Aspen provided meals at a reduced rate, which was part of the local organizing committee’s budget, but this year the hotel has group business that will prevent it from being the official dining room for athletes and their teams, according to Tomcich.

The local organizing committee will be looking to local restaurants.

“We’re going to have to get very creative,” Tomcich said.

Local organizers will be looking to honor their agreement with the Pro Cycling Challenge and, at the same time, spread the impact fairly across more of the business community, he said.

Though Aspen saw only a slight bump in lodging business from guests not associated with the tour last year, and other businesses did not report tremendous gains from the Pro Cycling Challenge, most in the business community indicated they’d like the event to return, according to Lesley.

Across Colorado, Pro Cycling Challenge organizers calculated the event had an $83.5 million impact on the state, including $67.4 million in direct spending, and attracted more than 1 million spectators. Pitkin County commissioners have suggested the city and county come up with a way to better measure the local economic impact of not only the bike race but other big events.

This year’s Pro Cycling Tour takes place Aug. 20 to 26. Stage 3, a repeat of last year’s “Queen Stage,” brings riders from Gunnison to Aspen via Cottonwood and Independence passes on Aug. 22. Stage 4, on Aug. 23, takes riders from Aspen to Beaver Creek via Leadville. They’ll again climb Independence Pass as they depart.

janet@aspentimes.com


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