Pro Challenge hurts sales according to business owners
From restaurants to retail to the construction industry, the USA Pro Challenge’s presence in Aspen incites mixed emotions among local business owners.
While some business owners say the event had little to no effect on their sales — outside of the lodging industry, which does tend to benefit financially from the event — very few businesses interviewed by The Aspen Times said the Pro Challenge had a positive impact on their sales.
“To say I am not a fan of the event would be too simplistic,” said Main Street Bakery owner Bill Dinsmoor.
Dinsmoor, who’s owned the bakeshop for nearly 30 years, said no one is able get to his bakery during the Pro Challenge “unless they understand the rabbit war of street closures.”
Though Dinsmoor said his sales take a major plunge when the event comes to town, he said it isn’t about him or his business.
“Three days of not-good business doesn’t break me,” Dinsmoor said. “I can absorb it. But there are other businesses in town that may not be able to.”
Dinsmoor said he would like to know what the city of Aspen intends to achieve by hosting the Pro Challenge and what benefit the event brings to the city.
“What are their goals, and why are they spending all this money closing down the town?” Dinsmoor asked.
Assistant City Manager Barry Crook said the Pro Challenge is seen as “a way of showcasing the community to the world.”
The city thinks “it has elevated Aspen as a destination for biking activity in a way that mere advertising would not have — not to mention the general impression of Aspen that the race has provided to many audiences everywhere,” Crook said.
Dinsmoor argued that the city doesn’t need any additional publicity, especially with the many cons surroundings the Pro Challenge.
“You think Aspen needs more exposure? You think Aspen is a mystery town?” Dinsmoor said.
“I don’t know of anything that rivals this, year-round, as far as disruption, traffic flow, road closures and lack of parking,” he continued, adding that cycling is “a very minor” sport in the U.S.
Pure Barre fitness studio owner Jordan Bullock said she canceled six classes during the Pro Challenge this year based on her experience at the Hyman Avenue location over the past two years.
“I lost a couple thousand dollars of revenue having to close 21/2 days, which is a huge impact on a small business,” Bullock said.
“It’s hard to lose that. Our clients were also really disappointed, but from a business standpoint, it made the most sense. It was a ghost town here — I didn’t see a person for two days. … It’s something that the town spends so much money on, and it doesn’t get back to the businesses at all,” Bullock said.
Josh Austin, who owns home-and-commercial-painting company Swedish Painting Co., said his business “has lost thousands of dollars of billing” every day the race has been in town over the past three years.
Though most businesses reporting negative sales during the Pro Challenge said they would rather not see the event return to Aspen, results from the city’s most recent surveys indicate otherwise.
In 2011 through 2013, the city of Aspen surveyed businesses to assess the impact of the race on their operations, Crook said.
The number of respondents ranged from 115 to 159 and included retail- and office-establishment owners, hotel and lodge owners, and restaurant owners.
According to Crook, these responses overwhelmingly indicated “even those businesses who felt negatively impacted wanted the bike race to return.”
“Despite the inconveniences associated with hosting the race, most of the community seems to support the race and appreciate the vibe that is felt in town the day of the races,” Crook said.
However, the vibe in town this year was not the same as last, Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich pointed out.
This year’s event was much smaller than last year’s and wasn’t that attractive for spectators, Tomcich said.
“It was challenging this year, just based on the geography and timing of it,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of marketing done for it compared to some of the other resort towns.”
Crook admitted this year’s Pro Challenge failed to receive the same level of attention as in previous years.
“This year, the television coverage was not as extensive as in years past, and that has been disappointing to us, as I’m sure it was to the bike-race folks,” Crook said.
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