USA Pro Challenge receives mixed reviews from Breckenridge business owners
As the USA Pro Challenge rolled through Breckenridge this year, did the dollars follow?
Depends on whom you ask.
While some locals said the cycling race isn’t worth the hassle or short-term drops in business, most others said they support the event for its long-term positive impacts on the town.
“We knew going in that it was going to be inconvenient for people, especially for Friday,” said Jen McAtamney, co-chair of the event’s local organizing committee; but, offset with the coverage the town received nationally and internationally, “that seemed like a small price to pay.”
The town of Breckenridge budgeted about $325,000 for the event this year, which is more than in years past due to hosting both a stage finish and time trial plus the addition of the women’s race, said Kim Dykstra, town spokeswoman. The town spent about $225,000 in 2014 and $160,000 in 2013.
She said the town is starting to survey local businesses, as it has done after the event every year. The 2014 survey results showed general support.
Race organizers also commission a third-party economic impact study every year, and this year’s should be done in about three months. For 2014, the study found the race brought around $130 million to Colorado.
“For Breckenridge, the USA Pro Challenge is really about the long-term positioning of summer and cycling in Breckenridge,” said Rachel Zerowin, Breckenridge Tourism Office public relations director.
LODGING UP, RETAIL DOWN
The town saw lodging gains in the weekdays leading up to the race, she said, and the occupancy was up 11 percent on the Wednesday before the race arrived compared to the same Wednesday last year, as of data compiled through Aug. 15.
She said that increase is not only from the race crews staying in Breckenridge, but also from spectators because lodging properties reported growth for that Wednesday during the first 15 days of August.
Bruce Horii, Beaver Run Resort and Conference Center director of marketing and sales, said the lodging property housed the race teams but wasn’t affected much otherwise.
“It doesn’t drive a lot of room nights directly to us,” he said. “A lot of people camp or stay with friends.”
However, he said, the overall exposure for the town benefits Beaver Run.
Great Western Lodging general manager Jeff Cospolich echoed those thoughts.
“We’re definitely 100 percent behind the town’s positioning itself as a cycling destination,” he said. “We’ve been really happy with the race five years running.”
However, retail businesses didn’t seem as enthused.
“It’s usually good business for us, and, this year, it was down over past years,” said Andrea Dickson, owner of clothing store Big City Blues.
Steve Lapinsohn, owner of The North Face, Columbia and Main Street Outlet stores, said he loves the race and its marketing for the town, but the event didn’t help business while it was in town, especially when people weren’t pushed inside by cold, rainy weather as they were last year.
“We did OK but not as good as I would have hoped for,” he said.
He added that he wished the race was easier to watch on TV.
“I was disturbed that it didn’t end up on any good station that people could see nationally,” he said. “We spent a lot of money on it, the town did, and, as a result, I don’t know that we got the national attention that I would have liked to see.”
Business also was slower at Elevation Ski and Bike, said mechanic Jason Gerry. On Friday, typically one of the store’s busier days, he said, “our shop didn’t rent a single bike.”
The store’s employees struggled to get to and from work, he added, and he talked to a UPS employee who said she spent five to six extra hours on Friday making deliveries by hand.
However, “it was really exciting to see the energy and to see the community really embrace it,” Gerry said. “Breckenridge was on the world theater, and, some day, the USA Pro Challenge could become something that is like the Tour de France.”
RESTAURANTS WEIGH IN
Local restaurant owners shared more mixed opinions.
“Last year and this year were better than years before as far as just pure dollars,” said Eric Mamula, owner of Downstairs at Eric’s. “Long term, I think it’s an outstanding event for the town.”
He said he hoped the event returns to showcase Breckenridge, which isn’t talked about in the same ways as Aspen, Crested Butte and Vail.
Soupz On owner Stacy Anderson said her restaurant next to City Market saw a negative impact during the race.
“Our business was down 40 percent Thursday and Friday from Wednesday and pretty much from all summer,” she said. “Every year, for the days that they’re here, our business is down, every single time.”
She added that road closure information was confusing.
“I wish they would’ve said what was open on all the emails, not what was closed,” she said. “It just seemed chaotic this year, more so than it had in years past, and our business is probably 70 percent locals and 30 percent visitors, and the locals stayed off the street.”
She said while the event is good marketing for the town, she would prefer the event didn’t return.
“Breckenridge is busy enough and has enough exposure right now that maybe we rode that wave, and maybe it’s time to move on,” she said.
Dick Carleton, managing partner of Mi Casa and Hearthstone restaurants, said his businesses saw large sales increases during the event this year, but his restaurants off Main Street have not financially benefited from other events in the past.
“It’s always challenging when we’re closing Main Street,” he said. “It doesn’t work for everybody.”
Still, he said, the town couldn’t buy the promotional effects of the Pro Challenge.
“We just couldn’t afford as a community to pay for the messaging and the advertising and the exposure that we get on a worldwide basis,” he said.
He added that he enjoyed the event’s festivities and was “extremely proud of the true characters of Breckenridge” who showed up on Moonstone Road.
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