For two days this week, the upper Roaring Fork Valley played host to more than one hundred professional cyclists, their staffs and lots of fans. It was the third year the USA Pro Challenge brought this contingent through Aspen. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, the race’s economic impact is good and bad, depending on whom you talk to.
A gunshot by Aspen’s mayor triggered the start of stage two of the USA Pro Challenge on Tuesday. More than 120 spandex-clad riders clicked into action, and sped through downtown. As they pedaled toward Independence Pass they left behind a resort with mixed feelings.
At the restaurant Aspen Over Easy, business was hopping on Monday. Owner Mladen Todorovic says business was good.
"Last year it was really bad, so I expected it to be bad but this year but, I gotta say, it’s much better. Maybe it’s the proximity of all of this (the race), or something, but yesterday we got super slammed and today was quite busy as well."
It was a different story for retailers on the Snowmass Mall. The racers and their entourage were staying at local lodges, but few made their way into shops.
Some business owners were disappointed, saying they extended hours and pulled in more staff for what they thought would be gang-buster days. Instead, sales were slow. One retail employee who didn’t want to be named said business was the slowest since mid-June. Another told us they had exactly two sales all day.
It’s not a surprise. In past years, retailers across the state have reported dismal sales to race spectators.
"I think we have to pay closest attention to our sales tax receipts and we want to know what the economic impact in town was, I’m hopeful we’ll see some bump. I don’t expect record numbers," says Steve Skadron.
He's Aspen's mayor. He says the City will evaluate the economic benefit of the race in coming weeks. Each year the City solicits reactions from businesses through a survey. Last year, hotels saw the biggest boost during the race, while retailers suffered the most.
For her part, Kelly Vaughn says she heard good things from business owners. Vaughn is Director of Communications for the Town of Snowmass Village.
"We are going to be following up, looking at the economic impacts, the benefits, but so far, all of the feedback has been quite positive," she says.
Bill Tomcich works with the local race organizing committee as the director of operations. He says they’ve tweaked planning for the race since it started three years ago to better accommodate businesses.
"In the case of Aspen, the first year the event was hosted here, a lot of the restaurants were effectively fenced in and had significant impacts on their business. It was after learning some of the consequences and the impacts of the way the race venue was set up that first year, that resulted in some changes."
He says pro’s outweigh con’s because the race brings visitors to town during one of the quietest weeks in the summer.
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron says to understand the benefit of the race, one has to take the long view. Economic benefits, he says, may not be felt on race day. Instead the payback comes years down the road.
"The idea behind the race wasn’t necessarily searching for a one day bump in sales. It’s really about the long term impact that an international marketing event like this one, can have on our town."
He thinks businesses will benefit more in the future as planning is perfected and the race grows in popularity. It’s little comfort for the businesses that didn’t benefit this time around.
The City of Aspen sent its survey to businesses that are members of the Chamber on Tuesday. The results won’t be back until September. City Council will also take public feedback at a Council Work Session on August 27th. That meeting starts at 4pm.