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Colorado Classic won't return to Colorado Springs next year

August 11, 2017 Updated: August 12, 2017 at 7:13 am
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The peloton passes the iconic sight of Garden of the Gods during Stage 1 of the Colorado Classic in Colorado Springs on Thursday, August 10, 2017. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette)

The Colorado Classic bicycle race won't return to Colorado Springs next year.

City leaders say the race, which looped from downtown to Garden of the Gods and through Old Colorado City on Thursday, was a success despite complaints of congestion and slowed business. And they'd like the Classic to return in the years to come.

But its first stage cost the city and organizations such as the Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax Advisory Committee about $500,000 and many months of preparation, said Bob Cope, the city's economic development manager, and Tom Osborne, CEO of The Sports Corp.

The decision not to extend that money to bring the race back in 2018 was made about six months ago, Osborne said. His organization instead will support the U.S. Senior Open golf tournament at The Broadmoor next July.

"To do this every year is a lot. It's a lot of energy and a lot of effort from everybody," Osborne said. "And we didn't want it to compete with the Senior Open for 2018. It was important not to have two major, major international and national events in the same month."

The Sports Corp will bid for the Colorado Classic in 2019, though, he said.

Meanwhile, the organizations involved will work to determine the economic impact of the race and how it can be improved.

Some preliminary numbers are in.

As many as 50 million people in 140 countries will watch the entire Colorado Classic this year on television, Cope said. Half a million people are expected to watch the race in person over four days.

Colorado Springs hosted the first stage of the race, followed by Breckenridge and Denver for the remaining three stages.

"When you're seeing these riders through Garden of the Gods and all the way through Colorado Springs, it's just hard to put a dollar amount on the effectiveness of people from all over the world seeing how beautiful our city is," Osborne said.

"Even if a small percentage say, 'I'm going to go visit Colorado Springs, go stay there, go see the sights,'" the impact can be huge, Cope said.

It "solidifies" the Olympic City USA brand, he said, which can attract investment, employers and create jobs. "It all works together."

Tens of thousands of people watched the race from local streets and parks, city spokeswoman Jamie Fabos said.

"Based on what I saw," Mayor John Suthers predicted, "the hotel business number alone will be large.".

Hundreds of athletes and their support crews came to town, rented vehicles and stayed in hotels, Osborne said. On average, people attending cycling events stay in town for three days. For example, the Rwandan team arrived in Colorado Springs weeks in advance to train and acclimate to the altitude, he said.

But emotions among locals varied as the cyclists raced. Some onlookers watched with bated breath and cheered the athletes. But many complained about street closures, and businesses felt a sting from reduced foot traffic.

Much of Tejon Street was closed for the race, which began and ended on the street between Pikes Peak and Colorado avenues. Except for businesses in that high-traffic stretch, many stores and restaurants were hurt by the closures, said City Council President Richard Skorman.

"I know it was hard on the 'Main Street' businesses," Skorman said. "Tejon Street businesses were just dead."

That includes the four businesses he co-owns with his wife, Patricia Seator, in the 300 block of North Tejon Street, which had a "terrible day."

Still, Skorman said, the race projects a "positive image for the community," and he'd like to see it back in town.

"But I'd love to see it managed better," he said.

Cope and Osborne said local businesses might have been hurt in the short term, but the race can provide a much more dramatic boost to the city's economy in the long run.

Bret Waters, the city's deputy chief of staff, said the city will work to refine the race and make it "a better event every year." To help that process, the city is asking residents to offer their feedback in a survey, now available at www.coloradosprings.gov/coloradoclassic.

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