Local race support on ropes

Dec 3
2009
Filed in: Chicago Criterium, Downers Grove, Superweek,


Comments (19)

The village council of Downers Grove voted Tuesday to eliminate the $37,000 it spends on the USPRO National Championship weekend, the crown jewel of local racing.

Although the budget's wording suggests the race will be canceled, I'm told that organizer Special Events Management is seeking sponsorship to plug the gap, and the race may go on. (The Downers Grove budget also calls it a "criterion," but that is neither here nor there.) USA Cycling was unaware of the development. Director of communications Andrea Smith says at this point the race remains on the national championship calendar. SEM estimated that more than 15,000 spectators attended the races in 2009. Although downtown restaurants benefit, locals tell me that some retailers see a drop in business and resent the crowds, and several close up shop for the weekend. At a July planning workshop, the village council rated the race as "low priority." Village manager David Fieldman did not return a request for comment. In addition to national championships for men, women and elites, Downers Grove traditionally hosts a full slate of amateur races over two days, including a Saturday twilight pro-am. In 2010, however, the women and elite men will have their criterium national championships in Bend, Ore. SEM manages the Chicago Criterium as well, and that race's future also will hinge on angel sponsorship without city funding. Meanwhile, the Daily Herald reports that Arlington Heights is considering not funding its Superweek race, a midweek criterium that made its debut in 2009. Read the comments for a sampling of residents' attitudes toward bike racing.

Comments

1.

Dec 3
2009

1:44 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

and moving the Elite National Championships to the upper west coast is just genius from a logistics standpoint. way to make it inconvenient for 2/3’s of the country.
#dumb

2.

Dec 3
2009

4:36 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Burnham Racing)

I don’t see how 2/3’s even enter into the equation.  There’s no national championship race for them. 

-your local jersey/championship Hall Monitor

3.

Dec 3
2009

4:44 pm

Luke Seemann's avatar

Luke Seemann (XXX Racing-AthletiCo)

I think he means that Bend International Airport may be a difficult destination for he two-thirds of the country that lives east of the Mississippi, not Cat 2’s and 3’s.

4.

Dec 3
2009

5:05 pm

delirious71 (Project 5 Racing)

i love how when you click on the link to the Village of Downers Grove story the pic that appears under the heading of events is a cyclist.

5.

Dec 3
2009

6:04 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Tati)

$2.50 a person sounds like a good price to me.  I’d pay that to watch the races.

6.

Dec 4
2009

11:12 am

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (xXx Racing-Athletico)

I didn’t research the actual sales tax in DG - if we assume 6.5%, revenue would have to total ~$570k from the 15,000 spectators ($40 each) just for the village to BREAK EVEN on the $37,000 cost.  I don’t think every spectator spends $40 while in town, so as sad as this is, it is probably a good decision - fiscally.

7.

Dec 4
2009

2:36 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Your numbers only account for the actual weekend of the race. Yet, if it weren’t for Nationals, I wouldn’t be able to find Downers on a map. As it is, thousands of people from Chicagoland and across the US know that there are several good restaurants, a knitting shop, a comic book store, Caribou coffee, gift shops, etc. The whole point of hosting a race like this is to raise awareness. Without Nationals, Downers Grove will fade into another generic suburb.

8.

Dec 4
2009

2:50 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (xXx Racing-Athletico)

I understand the intangibles of hosting a race, but I doubt many people would choose to fly (or drive) from a distance to the Chicago area and make it a point to visit DG.  Although the Caribou is nice (and who DOESN’T like a good comic book store) ultimately it is just another “generic suburb” of Chicago.  The same coffee/yarn/comic book shops can be found in Wheaton, Naperville or Geneva.

I am not saying that I am happy about the prospects of losing DG.  I am just saying I can understand how the village board would choose to cut this spending during these tough economic times.

9.

Dec 4
2009

3:11 pm

Luke Seemann's avatar

Luke Seemann (XXX Racing-AthletiCo)

Is there a U of C economist in the house? Paging Devon Haskell!

It’s been awhile since my last macro class, but I expect there are some multipliers in play, so the contribution to the city’s coffers is more complicated than just sales tax receipts.

For example, I expect a lot of the $37,000 goes to pay overtime to the police who monitor the intersections. That’s money will get spent and re-spent within the local economy. Plus, it’s an easy, well-paying gig that’s a nice perk for the police, and its in the interest of the village to give its police as many perks as possible. If I were a Downers Grove police officer who looked forward to an extra few hundred dollars in my August paycheck, I would be none too happy with this development.

All that said, I think Tom’s point stands: Even with a more generous accounting, cities would be lucky to break even from a bike race, which is why it’s more important than ever that we be good guests when we race anywhere.

10.

Dec 4
2009

3:46 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Unattached)

I don’t believe Geneva has a yarn shop.  There have been some VERY minor grumblings about Geneva possibly having a race next year, though.

That would be two differences between the towns.

And, our generic-suburb Caribou doesn’t really look any different than the 10 in the various, incredibly distinct and non-generic city neighborhoods.

11.

Dec 5
2009

8:49 am

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

Briney’s assessment is spot on both in the $ impact calculation AND the “just another ‘generic Chicago suburb’” subjective comment. And that’s the key - each of these suburbs have for decades ceded revenue to national chain big box and brand processed food establishments in strip malls that line the state highways, often on the outskirts of the town itself, and the core older downtown centers have struggled to survive as a result. The Village managers need to spend money to promote the downtowns, where they get more revenue margin per dollar spent. As such, the difference between the $40 per head to break even and the more realistic $20 actually spent is the cost of marketing their downtown. I can’t comment on whether they’d be better served running a 10K or criterium (runners are notoriously skinflnts?) but the downtown should be getting a measurable effect in the long term, rather than just the weekend. They’ll find that out only when they stop running the race.
To buttress the webmaster’s comment regarding respecting the host town with patronage: I still don’t understand why merchants don’t offer a deal to those wearing a bib number. I’d buy more comic books if I was getting 20% off.

12.

Dec 5
2009

12:01 pm

pat mcnally

For years, none of the stores and restaurants were even open on race weekend. What we’ve seen lately is vastly different than the olden days.

13.

Dec 6
2009

12:39 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

There is an interesting post about calculating the economic impact of the larger (Missouri/Georgia/California) bike races here. http://bit.ly/7csoGC

While these races are far larger than anything that will come to the Chicago ‘burbs, the author makes an interesting point; that money coming in is so diluted that very few see actual gains from the races.

However, there ARE benefits. A bike race is entertainment. Cities spend money on fireworks, parades, and festivals, all in order to enrich their community. Bike racing does the same thing. Perhaps painting it as an monetary investment is a bit too much, but there is no denying the value a race can bring to a community’s image.

14.

Dec 6
2009

4:26 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Unattached)

Hey David,

Not sure of your expertise with respect to generic suburbanism, but you might want to take a ride through the greater Chicagoland area.  If a “generic suburb” is as you described (ie. “core older downtown centers have struggled to survive”), then the ones listed are possibly 3 of the worst examples.

The most amusing thing about this thread is the number of comments seeming to suggest whether or not it is a good decision for Downer’s Grove to fund their race… none of such comments coming from a DG resident or somebody with first-hand insight to the goings-on of the village.

I’d imagine that the decision making process in deciding to fund the DG race was similar, if not identical, to that behind the decision to not fund the Chicago crit. The economics of city and suburban budgeting may differ in matter of scale, but not a whole lot more.

As there seem to be several Chicago residents posting on here, it might be easier to save your race than one in a village were it seems none of us actually pay taxes. Can we leave the urban elitism behind and figure out a way save that race?

15.

Dec 6
2009

5:58 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

MJH:
There are several Chicagoland collar communities that have spent and worked to keep the downtown centers vital & viable - I think DG is one of them, perhaps one of the more successful. The changes over 20 years have been positive and there are several independent business with a long and (we hope) prosperous track record. In Oak Park, I pay over $12K in taxes for a 3K square foot home. Some of that tax money has to go to promoting events that bring people into town. I accept that. My tax $ for events has certainly helped DG residents to enjoy the annual 10K race. It’s a very big Chicagoland community & the economies are very much connected. The discussion, at root, is less about DG in particular and more about the negative budget impacts that could threaten local bike racing. Why should any community continue to fork over tax $ for an athletic event? My point was that such spending is part of a community’s investment into their better revenue producing downtown centers. It was not attempt to tell residents of DG what to do for my benefit.

16.

Dec 6
2009

10:28 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Tati)

Nobody is flying in to watch these races, but people in the suburbs already know what Chicago has to offer while people in the city refer places like Downers as the “Generic Suburbs”.

I’m not saying either one should or shouldn’t be canceled, just that they shouldn’t be compared because their towns/cities are (were) hosting them for different reasons.

17.

Dec 8
2009

6:36 pm

bobw (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

I don’t know guys I think if I were on the village board, I’d think, “wow we have 10’s of thousands of people running through our streets, how do we use this?” Sadly, as Pat points out, the local businesses miss the point and get agitated and run in the wrong direction over the years.

Are you going to make money off it on paper in the abstract, doing nothing but waiting for something to sit in your lap? How about if you close down for the weekend? How about instead you realize the opportunity and do something about it?

Plant the flag, have some pride and make some money. Jeez.

18.

Dec 9
2009

2:30 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (xXx Racing-AthletiCo)

I would totally have to agree with Bob.  I worked in a small business for years in a small town wedged between Chicago on three sides. 

Every year businesses close up early, inlcuding my shop, during the 4th of July Parade.  Drives me crazy for many reasons.

1) “Plant the flag, have some pride, and make some money.”  Small businesses are generally narrowly principled.  They like to make money, without having to change much of their operation for any given event.  Bite it.  Granny brings kids in that are visiting for the weekend.  Boom!  “I haven’t been in here for years.  I remember when we would bring OUR children in here”  It sparks multiple memories of positive past experiences, and reminds them of a local economy that is invested into the area.  It is GOOD for the local residentst too, even if they are grumpy about it.

2) Events such as this, as previously mentioned, are intangibles.  Shows a reason why to invest into real estate, business, etc . . . in the municipality.  In the short run, as Briney mentioned, probably a good fiscal decision.  I would argue that in the long run, you would notice an unwillingness to invest financially, emotionally, etc . .  in the area.  Not good.  Diverse activities in an area, whether locals use it or not, is a good thing.

NOW . . . the race.  SPONSORS!! pretty please pretty please pretty please pretty please pretty please.  We like our little bike race.

19.

Dec 14
2009

9:35 pm

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Downers Grove cuts payroll, programs in 2010 budget
Village also plugs $4.5 million hole with tax increases

Among the events affected is the annual Heritage Festival, a 28-year tradition, which has been suspended indefinitely. That move that will save the village a half-million dollars, according to Village Manager Dave Fieldman. Funding was also eliminated for the annual ice festival and bike race.

 

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