USA Pro Challenge gets overwhelming support in Aspen

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times
Cory Enloe, center, general manager of the Sky Hotel, speaks in support of the USA Pro Challenge during an Aspen City Council work session on Tuesday afternoon. The council's meeting room in the basement of City Hall was packed, and the vast majority of those who spoke were in favor of the professional cycling event returning to Aspen next year.
Andre Salvail/The Aspen Times |

Community members and business owners alike showed overwhelming support for the USA Pro Challenge at Tuesday night’s City Council work session.

Increases in business and lodging, as well as the amount of exposure Aspen gets from the event, were common themes during the discussion. The City Council also was asked to provide exact numbers on expenditures and revenue associated with the race.

Michael Goldberg, who owns Matsuhisa, said business at his restaurant — for this time of year — is double what it is without the race. He also said exposure for Aspen associated with the race is immeasurable.

“I don’t know how you measure the publicity that you get worldwide in terms of TV coverage,” he said. “I don’t understand how this community doesn’t, as a whole, wholeheartedly endorse this race, particularly given the fact that it is still rather in its infancy.”

One resident said she doesn’t have a strong opinion one way or another but asked for details on the cost to taxpayers from the race. She also wanted numbers on lost revenue reported by merchants who had to close their businesses.

Mayor Steve Skadron said the city is reviewing the numbers while taking a long-range view of the benefits.

Expenditures from Aspen were approximately $200,000 — money from the general fund. Snowmass Village has estimated expenditures at $112,000.

Erik Skarvan, owner of Sun Dog Athletics and a cycling enthusiast, said he shuts his business down because he’s so excited to see the action.

“These are the best guys in the world out there. We’re so fortunate to have that here,” he said, comparing the event to the Winter X Games and Food & Wine Classic.

Corey Enloe, general manager of the Sky Hotel, said he’s seen a 38 percent increase in business associated with this year’s race. He also said the international coverage of the event along Independence Pass establishes Aspen as a world-class cycling destination.

Barbara Frank, development director of the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, said her organization nets $10,000 in scholarship funds as a result of the event.

Bridget Balentine, owner of Balentine Collection International, a flooring company, said she’s trying to be supportive of the race but had to shut her business down for two days because of it. Ruth Wade, of Ute Mountaineer, said she saw a noticeable drop-off in sales.

“How can you bring us into the fold?” Balentine asked, later joking, “I hope some person moves here to town and buys a house that I can remodel as a result of the bike race.”

Immediately following Balentine, Fletcher Yaw, owner of Fly Cyclery in Aspen, said he had two clients visit during the race who said they are thinking about buying houses in the area because of the experience.

R.J. Gallagher, a local philanthropist, said Aspen should be jumping at the opportunity to host the race again because there are plenty of other Colorado towns competing for the job.

Another problem raised during the hearing was the disruption that a rock concert associated with the race had on the final event of the Aspen Music School and Festival. A representative from the school said it was “a shock” that its final performance of the season had been interrupted, and he hoped for better planning between the festival and the race in the future.

Some business owners voiced concern over the fact that they were forbidden from selling official USA Pro Challenge gear during the race. Leading up to the race, local businesses are allowed to, but on race day, that right is reserved for official vendors.

One business owner suggested that the starting line of the race be moved a block west, in front of the Sardy House, where businesses won’t be affected by the tent cities that arise on race day.

Terry Butler, owner of the Residence Hotel on Galena Street, elicited a strong response from the packed room when she said, “Keep Aspen young!” referring to the culture the USA Pro Challenge draws to town. She also said Aspen’s summer identity — something she said this ski town has struggled to nail down — could be solved by the bike race.