NoCo organizers work to meet Pro Challenge

Northern Colorado organizers of the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race have begun raising the remaining $300,000 they will need before the race comes to Larimer County on Aug. 24.

The official race route was announced last month, with Loveland, Windsor, Estes Park and Fort Collins included on the route for the first time. This was the mission of a group of local cycling enthusiasts and tourism experts called NoCo Cycling.

The group now is working to find sponsors for the local portion of the race. About half of the money needed was committed by the cities months ago. All four cities included in the route committed money, as did the Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau. Those contributions, combined with in-kind and other donations, made up about $250,000, according to Eric Thompson, president of The Group Inc. and one of the people who spearheaded the Pro Challenge effort.

Now, it is up to NoCo Cycling to find sponsors for the remaining money needed. The cycling supporters hope to have funds and sponsorships in place by the end of June, Thompson said.

The group is not yet ready to release the names of sponsors, but should be making an announcement within the next few weeks, Thompson said.

Planning is under way for all aspects of the event, Thompson said. The grand finale, an after-party at the finish line in downtown Fort Collins, is expected to draw huge crowds to Old Town.

The race is to end on Mountain Avenue outside CooperSmith Brewing, a brewpub and iconic piece of Old Town. The restaurant sits on the edge of Old Town Square.

As a longstanding resident of downtown, CooperSmith’s is accustomed to large events right outside its doors. New West Fest, an annual music festival, is to take place downtown the week before the Pro Challenge rolls into town, according to Sandra Longton, general manager of CooperSmith’s.

The exposure of downtown Fort Collins and the rest of Northern Colorado won’t just be limited to those who physically attend the race. The Pro Challenge has been dubbed the “U.S.’s Tour de France,” and as such is widely televised on an international stage.

In 2012, the race garnered more than 31 hours of airtime on NBC and NBC Sports Network in the United States and was broadcast to 175 countries worldwide, according to the Pro Challenge website.

It’s that level of exposure that tourism officials and race organizers covet.

“The eyes of the world will literally be on us,” Thompson said.

Economic benefits aren’t a given when the race comes to town, however, as Boulder learned during the 2012 race.

A survey done by the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business showed that
Boulder saw an estimated $48,000 in sales and use taxes from nonresident spending on race day from people who said they visited Boulder that day specifically for the race.

But that wasn’t enough to cover the $283,481 the city spent to put the race on in 2012.

Still, officials believe the race contributed to a jump in sales and uses taxes in August of $800,000 more than was collected during the same month in 2011.

Boulder will not be taking part in the 2013 race, but many in the Boulder-Longmont area are looking to put together a bid for the 2014 race.

Giving the rest of the nation and the world a positive look at Northern Colorado could also help mitigate some of the negative press the area received last summer, when two wildfires in Larimer County, including one in tourist-heavy Rocky Mountain National Park, took a toll on the busiest tourism season of the year.

Barring any more monster wildfires, Fort Collins Convention and Visitors Bureau chief executive Jim Clark and others are expecting a tourism season much closer to normal in 2013, boosted by the Pro Challenge and the exposure that comes with it.

Visit Estes Park, which launched a $75,000 marketing campaign after the High Park and Woodland Heights fires to bring visitors back to Estes and to Rocky Mountain National Park, is looking forward to the extra visibility.

The marketing campaign was successful, according to Brooke Burnham, director of public relations for Visit Estes Park, and Estes “recovered nicely,” but there’s always room for improvement.

Bringing the race here offers the chance to familiarize people from outside the region and the state with what Northern Colorado has to offer, Burnham said.

“We can still use all the positive publicity we can get,” she said.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, marmbrister@ncbr.com or twitter.com/MArmbristerNCBR
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