by Rick Langenberg:
Despite a huge city price tag for the USA Pro Challenge race, and lousy results for area businesses, local elected leaders are ready to open the gates for Woodland Park’s return bid as a host or participating community for another cycling showdown.
Although no official vote was taken, the WP City Council last week expressed a strong desire in having the week-long competition pedal through Woodland again in a major way during the annual event. The race, which attracts one million viewers from across the world, has now gained recognition as the most popular cycling competition next to the Tour de France. In fact, the main question posed by elected leaders during last week’s Stage 5 follow-up report was: How can the city get involved in this race again? “It was a phenomenal event,” said Mike Perini, the owner of Perini & Associates, who headed the local organizing committee of the Stage 5 competition, which took off from Woodland Park and ended in Breckenridge. “We were successful as a community.”
But at the same time, city officials acknowledged that the town government incurred some serious financial hits with its role as a host community, with a net loss of $90,000 that exceeded its projections by thousands of dollars. Overall event costs were estimated at about $152,000, according to City Manager David Buttery.“I am not pleased with the numbers,” said Buttery. “I am disappointed with the costs for the city.” However, he attributed these less than stellar figures to the weather and the fact that the August 22 Stage 5 showdown represented the city’s “rookie” role as a host community for the USA Pro Challenge. Consequently, the city took a more cautionary route and spent more money than it had to regarding some of the main logistical expenses, noted Perini.
The total costs incurred represented what the city had to pay out for hosting the Stage 5 event, such as for signage, security, lodging, food and beverages, promotions and a spree of extra financial expenses. But luckily, the city reaped the benefits of generating $62,000 in monies from local and regional partners and the sale of merchandise. These numbers don’t take into account, though, the many services and additional expenses offered for free by local non-profits, businesses, emergency service and law enforcement agencies and government officials.
When it got the nod as a host community for the 2014 Pro Challenge race, Woodland Park budgeted about $65,000 for the event, and hoped that it could get most of this money back from sponsorships. Although disappointed from a financial standpoint, Buttery agreed with Perini that the Stage 5 showdown was a huge community triumph. “We think we presented the city well,” said Buttery, during last week’s council discussion.
During a detailed presentation before the council last week, Perini noted that the USA Pro Challenge committee was quite happy with Woodland Park’s role as a host community and even the crowds at the start of the race, despite cold and rainy temperatures. Perini especially praised the volunteers and his committee members. “All of our volunteers were great ambassadors.”He described the majestic pageantry associated with the start of the race as unrivaled. “If you were not moved (by the opening ceremonies of Stage 5), you were not alive,” said Perini. In addition, he mentioned the start village, the accessibility of the cyclists, who gave out autographs and exchanged words with fans, and a week-long bevy of special events, as big highlights.
From a logistic standpoint, he said the event could not have gone better. “Our community executed all of the elements (of the Stage 5 start) flawlessly,” said Perini.
But he admits improvements could be made in the future, such as a better long-term communications plan and changes in the parking situation. Perini also conceded that he wasn’t happy with the coverage done by the NBCSP television station that didn’t air any live footage from Woodland Park for the Stage 5 race. This coverage was somewhat hampered by the weather, prohibiting the station from doing live footage from Hoosier Pass, one of the main climatic parts of the 104-mile race between Woodland Park and Breckenridge
Some business operators also weren’t keen on the event itself, referring to the race, as a basic “business disaster.” A few local eateries and restaurants described their business for race day as one of their worst Fridays of the entire summer. Most business operators classified the race as a good event for the city, but not something that helped local shops or restaurants one bit. In fact, some contended that they found themselves in competition against the city. These accounts weren’t discussed at last week’s after-action report. Perini, however, expressed optimism that the event will trigger many return customers and visitors from around the country and world, as a result of the USA Pro Challenge Stage 5 start and associated publicity. “We want folks to come to our community. My sense is many will be back,” said the marketing consultant.
We want it back
The council made it clear they want return customers and they want to see the Challenge event back in Woodland Park in a major way. “Do we have a shot to participate again?’ asked Councilman Ken Matthews.“We should step forward. I would like to spread the word,” added Councilman Bob Carlsen, who stressed the long-term benefits of the cycling showdown for Woodland Park.“I was most impressed with the volunteers,” said Councilman Gary Brovetto. “A lot of people were excited.”
Mayor Pro Tem Carrol Harvey, though, expressed caution about compiling more accurate financial projections regarding the event, if the city lands a role as a host or participating community again. “We need to be good stewards of our budget,” said Harvey. She was referring to the fact that the city will have to take an extra $25,000 or so from its reserve funds to compensate for the 2014 event expenses.
Pernini told the council that he is optimistic the city can play a big participating role in the Challenge again. “We are on the short list,” said the marketing consultant. He said some of the Challenge organizers expressed an interest in establishing a future route up Hwy. 67 between Woodland Park and Deckers. Other Challenge ideas mulled near Woodland Park include a trek up and down Pikes Peak. However, race observers don’t believe the cycling Challenge will land in Woodland Park next year, as organizers try to shift the course around every year to encompass the entire state. And if the race does return to Woodland, as either a host or finishing site, city officials say they can do a better job in managing expenses. “We could have saved a lot of money,” admitted Mayor Neil Levy, the owner and head chef of the Swiss Chalet restaurant, which was involved in the recent Challenge event.