Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tour of CA to skip City of SB

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

For the fourth year in a row, the Amgen Tour of California will pass through Santa Barbara County but it will not make a stop in the City of Santa Barbara, tour officials announced yesterday.

The individual time trial will once again be held in Solvang, which has been the case for the past two years. However, the stage that has traditionally started in Santa Barbara and finished in Santa Clarita will instead begin in Santa Clarita and finish in Pasadena.
While Solvang celebrated with a news conference yesterday, Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum said she wasn’t surprised her city was left out of the nine-day bike race, since tour officials said they didn’t plan to select the city even if it had submitted a proposal to be a host, which nearly 100 cities did.
“We were told they weren’t going to choose us,” she said. “I think they wanted to go elsewhere this year and that’s OK.”
Blum said she couldn’t remember the exact reasons for the tour’s decision to bypass Santa Barbara, but Santa Barbara City Administrator Jim Armstrong said it had to do with Highway 101 construction, which includes plans to reconstruct a section of Cabrillo Boulevard that has been part of the race route the last three years. He also said the city wanted to host the race on a weekend, but tour officials indicated it would stop on a weekday.
Armstrong said he had no memory of tour officials saying they would not choose Santa Barbara if it submitted a proposal.
In the end, the local Tour of California organizing committee, which consists of city leaders, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition and the Santa Barbara Conference, Visitors Bureau and Film Commission, opted to not submit a proposal.
While Highway 101 construction and the date of the event seem to have been major factors in that decision, Judith McCaffrey, recreation manager for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said money is the biggest issue.
To host the tour’s stage six start this year, McCaffrey said the organizing committee had to raise $23,000, $6,000 of which went to provide free hotel rooms for tour organizers, competitors and other officials. She said $10,000 of the money was used to cover overtime costs for Santa Barbara Police Officers, with the remainder going to a number of costs like marketing and providing portable bathrooms.
The first two years the tour passed through Santa Barbara, McCaffrey said the organizing committee simply had to guarantee rooms at a certain rate, which cost significantly less than paying for the rooms outright.
“As this race has become more prestigious, they’re asking for more to be provided for free,” she said.
And if last year was any indicator, the rising costs are a problem for fundraisers.
When the race had come and gone this year, McCaffrey said the organizing committee hadn’t raised enough to cover the costs.
“Basically they weren’t successful in raising the money in the fundraisers and one of the committee members wrote a check for the remaining balance,” she said. “They just couldn’t bring in the funds [and] as a group the just decided they weren’t going to do it this year.”
McCaffrey also said tour officials had indicated the race might have passed through town on a weekday, which would likely have further compromised the committee’s ability to drum up financial support for the race.
A statement sent to media last year indicated the tour has a “significant” positive impact on the local economy.
After the 2008 event, local organizers issued a statement to media that said 463 rooms were booked in Solvang for the one-day time trial and 276 were booked in Santa Barbara. Hotel revenue alone infused more than $81,000 into the local hotel industry, the statement said. On top of that, organizers estimated spectators visiting the area, of which there were several thousand, spent an average of $90 per day on dining, shopping and other activities. Aside from these figures, organizers said it’s difficult to accurately calculate the tour’s complete impact on the economy.
Michael Roth, vice president of communications for AEG, a sports and entertainment presenter which owns the race, said he wasn’t aware tour officials gave any impression they wouldn’t choose Santa Barbara, but that switching from one city to another is normal.
“We do change cities every year,” he said. “We try to bring in a few new cities every year and try to go on hiatus with a couple other cities every year. It’s important to keep the race fresh for the riders with new challenges.”
Roth said Santa Barbara is one of the few cities that can say it had been selected to host a start or finish each of the tour’s first three years.
According to Laura Kath, president of Mariah Marketing, which handles public relations for the tour in Solvang, the only cities to be selected for a fourth year are Sausalito and Santa Rosa. Solvang was not a host city during the tour’s inaugural 2006 race. She said eight of the 16 host cities in 2009 have changed over 2008.
While there is some confusion as to exactly why the tour won’t be back in Santa Barbara this year, all of those interviewed said they’d like to see the race return.
“We still have a very respectful and terrific relationship with the local organizing committee in Santa Barbara,” Roth said. “We respect them very much and they have been great. I do know that we are hopeful to work with them in the future in finding a way to get back into Santa Barbara.”
If it were up to her, Blum said the tour would be coming back to Santa Barbara in 2009.
“We enjoyed having the race here,” she said. “It was a good experience for the kids and the rest of the community. We would love to be a [finish site] as well as a start, but those things are not decided at my desk, unfortunately.”

3 comments:

Greg Knowles said...

This race is a blast to watch. I do hope that Santa Barbara will work to become a host city again soon.

Anonymous said...

I am glad this event is not being Hosted here. The Amgen people are too high maintence and the race provides very little to the local economy. If the tour was held in the tourist off season I could see it being of benefit. But to come in during the tourist high season and ask for discounted hotel rates, no thanks. It is also a major disruption in traffic causing many delays to most people who could care less about bike racing.

suzanne said...

I have been watching the Amgen Tour the past 4 years here in Santa Barbara and I find it absolutely fascinating! As a weekend road/mtn biker, it was Awesome for me to be so close to the Racers as they "took off out of the gates" & sped by... . I felt as if I were at the horse races.....you could feel the power and the determination in each rider! Plus, the riders were so nice to the crowd and signed autographs etc for everyone. I really wish SB would try and get the race back here....as we All know too well... NOTHING IS FOR FREE! (but many things are worth the price - C'mon Santa Barbara!).