Pitkin County wants to be in loop for next Pro Cycling Challenge | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County wants to be in loop for next Pro Cycling Challenge

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Pitkin County wants to be in the loop early as the city of Aspen prepares its bid as a host city for the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge. In fact, County Manager Jon Peacock suggested Tuesday that the county be a co-applicant with the city.

Commissioner Rachel Richards was amenable to the idea, so long as the county isn’t expected to put up funding to host the pro cycling stage race, which made its debut across Colorado in August and made a stop in Aspen.

Commissioners heard a recap Tuesday from city officials on the event’s impacts, costs and how the experience can be improved next year. The same presentation was made to the Aspen City Council last month.

The county had little formal input on this year’s event, though commissioners set aside past policy and allowed the use of a helicopter to film the riders overhead. The helicopter debate came rather late in the planning stage, though, leaving commissioners in the uncomfortable position of either approving the chopper use or jeopardizing Aspen’s chances as a host community. Commissioners urged the city to keep them abreast of expectations this time around.

“We don’t want to be in the killjoy seat,” Richards said.

She quizzed her colleagues on whether they would agree now to the use of a helicopter next year, but received a mixed reaction.

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Commissioner Rob Ittner said he would approve the same level of use that the county agreed to this year, but Commissioner Michael Owsley wasn’t ready to make a commitment.

“If you’re asking for a blanket approval of helicopters going forward, I can’t agree to that,” Owsley said.

Commissioner George Newman said he wants any changes in the plan to come before the county early on. Commissioner Jack Hatfield was absent during the morning session.

All of the commissioners who were present praised this year’s event, however, and voiced enthusiasm about hosting it in future years.

“I think the value of this bike race is to have the continuity of it,” Newman said.

“The benefit, it seems to me, of a bike race is the community building. That’s something this town needs,” Owsley said. Everyone was happy about the race, he noted.

Bids for next year are due Oct. 31, according to Jeff Woods, city parks director. Host communities have been advised they must have a $250,000 budget to host a stage finish and more to have a stage start, as well, he said. Aspen officials have expressed interest in hosting both next year.

This year, riders spent the night in Aspen at end of the Queen Stage, a ride from Gunnison to Aspen via Cottonwood and Independence passes. Hosting a start to the next day’s stage would not have been difficult, Woods said.

This year, the event cost $258,000, including donated hotel rooms. The city was prepared to put up $100,000 but spent about $77,000, Woods said. The city is budgeting $100,000 toward the event in each of the next two years, he added.

Revenues from the event this year, including sponsorships, fundraising, merchandise sales and other proceeds, totaled $243,000, so the event came within $15,000 of breaking even, Woods reported.

Among members of the business community who responded to a survey, about half said their business was unchanged during the week of the race, while about a third said their revenues dropped. Lodging saw the biggest gains as a result of the event, reported Barry Crook, assistant city manager.

But virtually all of the survey respondents want to see the Pro Cycling Challenge return, regardless of its impact on their individual business.

“Whatever the negative impacts were, most people want the bike race back,” Crook reported.

janet@aspentimes.com