Most Viewed Stories
USA Pro Challenge says 1 million saw race, spending neared $100m
See photos and stories from the USA Pro Challenge cycling race across Colorado!
USA Pro Challenge organizers reported Thursday that the week-long August bicycle race drew 1 million spectators — matching last year's inaugural — across its 683-mile route across Colorado.
Organizers said the privately funded race stirred $99.6 million in spending, up from $83.5 million last year.
Research firm IFM Global surveyed 2,000 attendees in host cities and along the route to establish an economic impact of $81.5 million spent on lodging, food, transportation and entertainment. The rest came from race support.
The IFM report said spectators from 25 states lined the course, and 53 percent of spectators came from outside Colorado and said they would not have traveled to the state if not for the race. More than three-quarters of the spectators surveyed said they were likely to return next year.
"This race showcases Colorado and provides an incredible economic impact that will hopefully be here for years to come," race chief Shawn Hunter said in the news release.
In its own survey of host cities, The Denver Post found that visitation was around 5,000 to 7,500 at each of the first few stops of the race in Telluride, Montrose, Crested Butte and Gunnison. Crowds began swelling, with 10,000 to 15,000 in Aspen, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge.
Numbers for the first half of the race fell below expectations. Leaders in some communities said they were prepared for at least twice as many spectators. The Forest Service was braced for tens of thousands atop Independence Pass outside Aspen and counted fewer than 1,500, said White River National Forest public-affairs officer Bill Kight. Nevertheless, all host cities embraced the race, noting the long-term value from the race's exposure and televised coverage.
At Colorado Springs, race organizers estimated more than 50,000 spectators lined city streets to see the Stage 5 finish.
The crowds in Golden, Boulder and Denver were huge, with hundreds of thousands lining the route from Golden to Boulder and for the downtown time trial in Denver.
Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks counted 10,000 spectators lining Boulder's climactic finish on Flagstaff Mountain, roughly a third of the number expected for the final 4-mile ascent.
Steve Johnson, president and chief of USA Cycling, said the USA Pro Challenge crowds were on par with the 7-year-old Tour of California.
"The crowds on the Western Slope were smaller than the crowds at the Front Range. However, the crowds on the Boulder-Flagstaff stage were unlike anything I have ever seen in the U.S.," Johnson said.
Most host cities across Colorado reported increased sales-tax collections for August.
"We tried to take as broad and deep a sample as possible to get an accurate representation," said David Porthouse, vice president at IFM Global.
Porthouse's surveys found that each person attended an average of two stages, and his team relied on law enforcement and race organizers to count spectators along the route.
Porthouse said his estimates reflect "a conservative take on who was there."
Beyond the bump from spending, the race generated media coverage internationally and strong online interest.
"It was like a multiday infomercial for Colorado. If you are trying to position the state as a summer destination and a cycling destination, I think they did it well," said Darrin Duber-Smith, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver who specializes in sports marketing.
USA Pro Challenge economic impact
The Post compiled sales-tax revenue and visitor impact statistics in an effort to gauge the economic impact of the race.
Race organizers in Durango are compiling a race impact report and declined to estimate the number of spectators who watched the race start. The city's sales and use tax for August 2012 was $1.27 million, a 5.7 percent increase from the previous August. August 2012 sales tax collections for Durango were the highest for the month since 2008.
Bus ridership for the city, which provided race-day parking for 2,850 cars and 675 bikes, reached 2,617 for the Aug. 20 start of the race, including 340 riders from the race parking lots assembled at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. The previous Monday, without any event, Durango's trolley and loop buses saw 2,100 riders.
Durango saw lodging occupancy of 83.6 percent in Aug 2012, the exact same percentage as August 2011, according to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's August Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.
The Town of Telluride, where local organizers estimated the Pro Challenge drew about 6,000 for the finish of Stage 1 on Aug. 20, saw a 21 percent jump in sales tax revenue in August, reaching $467,475. The August sales tax receipts marks the busiest for the month in the town's history. Lodging tax collections climbed 43 percent from the previous August, reaching $71,646. Retail sales tax collections, including food and drink, climbed 11 percent over the previous August, reaching $329,685.
Local race organizers in the City of Montrose estimated 5,000 spectators watched the start of Stage 2 on Aug. 21. The city saw its August sales tax climb 0.8 percent over the previous August, reaching $1.04 million. The city's hotel and restaurant tax collections climbed 11.4 percent in August, reaching $39,575, up from $35,538 the previous August.
Race organizers estimated between 5,000 and 7,500 spectators gathered for the Aug. 21 Stage 2 finish in Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte. The Town of Crested Butte saw its sales tax collections increase 1.7 percent in August 2012, reaching $292,196, compared to $287,301 in the previous August.
The local Mountain Express bus service saw a 25 percent increase in ridership on race day.
Race organizers in Gunnison said the crowd size for the Aug. 22 start of Stage 3 was similar to the crowd size of the city's 2011 stage start, about 5,000 to 7,500. The city saw its 3 percent sales tax collections drop in August to $374,938, compared to $378,882 for the previous August. The city's lodging tax for August dropped 12 percent from the previous year to $20,570 while restaurant and bar sales tax collections climbed 1.5 percent to $65,503.
Aspen sold out every one of its 3,200 rentable units in the city Aug. 22, the afternoon racers finished Stage 3 in Aspen and the night before the downtown Stage 4 start.
The city saw its August lodging tax collections (2 percent of total lodging spending) climb 23 percent in August, reaching $197,311, up from $160,137 in August 2011. The city's August sales tax climbed 5 percent, reaching $1.02 million, up from $976,000 the previous August. Aspen's lodging occupancy was 75.1 percent in August 2012, up from 68.5 percent in August 2011, according to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.
"One of the goals short term was to fill the lodging community when the race was in town and we reached that goal. It was just great energy," said Nancy Lesley, director of special events for the city. "Long term, the marketing value was just tremendous, something that can't be rivaled."
The Aspen City Council recently approved the process to pursue a bid for the 2013 race and Aspen could be vying for a coveted start slot.
The Forest Service blew up an aerial photograph of racers cresting Independence Pass during Stage 3 on Aug. 22 and counted between 1,000 and 1,200 spectators lining the pass.
Race organizers in Beaver Creek estimated between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators gathered for the Stage 4 finish. The Town of Avon saw an 8.4 percent annual bump in its August 2012 sales tax and a 12.2 percent bump in its accommodation taxes. Vail, which hosted the 2011 race, saw its lodging occupancy climb from 54.2 percent in August 2011 to 60.1 percent in August 2012.
The town's finance director, Scott Wright attributed the increases to both Beaver Creek's hosting of the Aug. 23 Pro Challenge and a new beer and wine festival on Aug. 4.
"And in general a higher volume of guests due to the much more pleasant temperatures than the Front Range," Wright said.
Avon suspended bus service for an hour during the race and the town saw 379 bus riders on the Aug. 23 race day, compared to 385 on the previous Thursday. Eagle County's ECO Transit numbers show 338 riders on the afternoon of the race, compared to 518 during the same timeframe the previous Thursday.
Tim Baker, the executive director of the Beaver Creek Resort Company estimated his resort hosted between 10,000 and 15,000 spectators for the race. He said "nearly all" of Beaver Creek's 1,700-room mix of hotel rooms, single-family homes and condos were booked on the night before the race arrived. Like every other host, 650 of those rooms were used by race organizers and booked at a discounted or even free rate.
Baker's survey of local business owners in the village show many "triple, even quadruple" the revenues of the same day the previous year, which did not involve an event.
Race organizers in the Town of Breckenridge estimated 10,000 to 12,000 spectators gathered for the Friday morning start. The town saw spending on retail, restaurant and lodging climb 6 percent in August 2012, reaching $17 million, up from $16 million the previous August. Breckenridge vacationers spent $4.9 million on short-term lodging for August in Breckenridge, a 9 percent increase.
Breckenridge's net taxable sales in August continued the pace set earlier this summer, climbing 6.2 percent over the previous August to $23.2 million.
Lodging occupancy during the race was 56 percent for the race weekend of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. With the night before the start of Stage 5, Aug. 24, saw lodging up 15 percent from the same day last year, while Friday and Saturday lodging declined. For the month, lodging occupancy fell in August to 41.2 percent, compared to 43.3 percent the previous August, according to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's August Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.
A Breckenridge Resort Chamber survey of 71 businesses found sales for the Friday race-day were up 10 percent.
Race-day bus ridership in Breckenridge saw 438 passengers, compared to 375 on the previous Friday.
"The general consensus is that the Pro Challenge is a good long-term brand and business builder and there is support in the business community and with our town council to bid for next year," said local race organizer Lucy Kay.
Local race organizers estimated 15,000 people gathered in downtown Colorado Springs to watch the race and another 35,000 lined city streets from the route exit off Hwy. 24 to the finish line, according to city spokeswoman Cindy Aubrey.
Colorado Springs saw its sales and use tax collections - minus audit revenue - climb 9.7 percent in August 2012, reaching $11.1 million, up from $10.1 million in the previous August. This year's August was the busiest in terms of sales and use tax collections in at least six years. Building material and car sales led the uptick, with lodging revenue declining 2.3 percent. The city's lodger's and auto rental tax revenue fell 4.33 percent for the month.
Bus ridership for the Aug. 24 race reached 8,506, down from the previous Friday's ridership of 8,874.
Colorado Springs lodging occupancy was 74.5 percent in August 2012, compared to 77.8 percent in August 2011, according to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's August Rocky Mountain Lodging Report.
(Out There Note: It is likely the Waldo Canyon fire impacted visitation.)
The City of Boulder has not released its August sales tax receipts and is preparing a race impact report with crowd estimates. The Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's Rocky Mountain Lodging Report shows the city's 54,033 rooms were 88.5 percent occupied in August, compared to 85 percent occupancy in August 2011. Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks counted 10,000 lining Boulder's climactic finish on Flagstaff Mountain, roughly a third of the number expected for the final ascent.
Denver's lodging tax collections reached $6.3 million in August 2012, compared to $5.9 million in August 2011 and $4.7 million in 2010. The Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association's Rocky Mountain Lodging Report shows the city's 201,221 downtown rooms were 82.9 percent occupied in August, compared to 84.1 percent occupied in the previous August.
About the IFM Global research:
According to IFM, the 2012 race attracted spectators from at least 25 states. Following Colorado, the states with the most spectators were Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
“The enthusiasm we saw from the fans at this year’s USA Pro Challenge was unprecedented,” said Steve Johnson, president and CEO of USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing in the United States. “One of our main goals is to grow competitive cycling in America and the USA Pro Challenge is doing just that. From the level of competition, to the huge crowds of fans lining the streets, to the overall organization, this race is exactly what we need in professional cycling.”
The research also found:
• Spectators traveled in groups, with the average party consisting of three people.
• While the median household income of Colorado residents is $56,456, race spectators averaged a household income of $110,000.
• Spectators were satisfied with almost all parts of the race and the experience, with more than 86 percent saying they were very satisfied or satisfied with the race.
• More than half of spectators in attendance reported they ride a bike for fitness, while roughly 21.9 percent responded they ride a bike occasionally or not at all.
• This was an audience that appreciates the world class level of competition at the USA Pro Challenge and watches major cycling events on television, with 93.4 percent stating they watch part of the Tour de France.
• The race drew spectators for various reasons with 64 percent wanting to witness the elite level of competition, 45 percent interested in the destination cities and 46 percent wanting to experience the start/finish festivals.
• Spectators’ experiences with the USA Pro Challenge positively influenced their view of the State of Colorado, with 75 percent of out-of-state visitors stating they are more likely or much more likely to visit Colorado again based on their experience at the USA Pro Challenge.
“We conduct these types of studies on events around the world throughout the year,” said David Porthouse, vice president of IFM North America. “Working with our local partners and stakeholders, we implement best practices as we develop the data and models used to accurately and fairly evaluate the success of their events.”
IFM designed the study from the outset to address many of the contentious issues surrounding economic impact assessments. Key areas addressed included:
• Substitution effects – Since local fans will often spend similar amounts on local sports and other entertainment, IFM did not include the local fan spend in the economic impact report.
• Time shifting – Colorado is an attractive destination for travel, so IFM deliberately filtered respondents to ensure they were not capturing data from spectators already in Colorado, independent of the Pro Challenge, and also used elimination questions to remove those fans who intended to come to Colorado in the near future independent of the race.
• Sample sizes – Large samples were taken at all stages, distributed across the race locations.