2014-01-08 / Front Page

2015 bike race gears up, but not in Chesterfield

No money, no courses in county
By Peter Galuszka
Contributing Writer

Stegmaier Stegmaier In September 2015, some 450,000 spectators are expected to throng the metro region as world-class cyclists pedal around the city of Richmond and Hanover and Henrico counties for the Union Cycliste Internationale’s Road World Championships.

But one place the cyclists, competing on courses as long as 160 miles, seem unlikely to visit is Chesterfield County.

After months of on-and-off negotiations, race organizers and county officials have yet to reach a working partnership. Richmond 2015, the nonprofit group marketing and organizing the races, has asked the major metro-area jurisdictions for financial contributions to help stage the event. Richmond, Henrico and Hanover have agreed to kick in funding, but Chesterfield officials have so far declined to pony up.

Now, with key deadlines approaching, Chesterfield’s refusal to offer financial support means the races could come and go without crossing the county line.

Gecker Gecker County Administrator Jay Stegmaier says the county has offered to provide emergency and police support along the courses, but that’s it. “We have not talked about a cash contribution,” he said.

Richmond and the state are contributing $2 million in cash each. Henrico County has agreed to provide about $860,000, including cash and administrative costs, and has agreed to provide up to $540,000 for police services for ancillary events. Hanover County will make a $100,000 cash contribution and provide services worth about $65,000, says Tom Harris, Hanover County spokesman. Henrico and Hanover both include in their funding totals contributions via Richmond Region Tourism and the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Chesterfield is also a contributor to both entities. During the nine-day event, the convention center is expected to serve as racing headquarters.

Tim Miller, Richmond 2015’s chief operating officer, says that his group is still hoping to work something out with Chesterfield but time is running out. Only six to eight weeks may be left to negotiate before Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) officials give their final blessing for the 2015 races.

For that to happen, UCI must have mapped out a series of race courses for the cyclists that can range from 10 miles to 160 miles in length. By design, they must terminate at the convention center. “We need to have the course in place,” Miller said.

A UCI official was in town recently scouting courses. He visited Richmond, Henrico and Hanover but Chesterfield was noticeably left off the list.

Another reason for urgency, Miller explains, is that the same courses are expected to be used this May for the Collegiate National Championship in advance of the UCI event 15 months later.

“They have let us know they need a decision very quickly,” Stegmaier said of a possible financial contribution from the county. But that seems unlikely at this point. Dan Gecker, Midlothian District representative on the Board of Supervisors, says there was some discussion about six months ago about a portion of the race coming through the county, but nothing since. “There has been no further discussion that I am aware of,” Gecker said.

Jon Lugbill, executive director of Richmond Sports Backers and an avid cyclist who also serves on Richmond 2015’s board of directors, said that if Chesterfield doesn’t want to put up money and to be left out, “it’s their prerogative.”

“They weren’t part of the original bid and it’s not like they are dropping out,” he said.

In 2011, when Richmond beat out Muscast, Oman, to host the races in 2015, the event was cast as an opportunity to further regional cooperation. Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said it was a chance for Richmond to join a stellar list of “great cities such as Madrid, Florence and Copenhagen” that have hosted the UCI championships.

The Richmond 2015 board features such regional heavyweights as outgoing Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Dominion Resources Chief Executive Tom Farrell and Barry DuVal, head of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

A study by Chmura Economics & Analytics predicts that the 2015 race will bring in 450,000 spectators and generate $129 million in economic impact for the region — $158 million statewide. Richmond’s total contribution will be $21 million from public and private sources, including the city’s direct $2 million cash contribution.

According to the Chmura report, visitor spending is expected to total $15.8 million in Chesterfield and generate $3.8 million in tax revenue across the region.

Asked if Chesterfield would miss out on the spending and tax revenue if it chooses not to be an official participant in the UCI races, Stegmaier said, “We don’t believe these estimates are anywhere close to reality. To get to these numbers, we would have to be building hotels on every corner.”

He points out that the Chmura report appears to double count people who might be staying at a county hotel as race participants when they may be guests attending an unrelated event, such as a wedding. Chmura’s study also fails to account for the business disruption the races will cause through street closures, and what economists refer to as the “substitution effect.” Chmura’s study estimates that 45 percent of the 450,000 spectators will come from the Richmond region, for example, which means if they spend money attending the races, that’s money that won’t be spent elsewhere.

The study estimates that a little more than half of the total spectators will come from outside the region, averaging about 41,500 out-of-town spectators daily for six of the nine race days. Skeptics point out that in other places, UCI races have drawn fewer spectators than anticipated. One in Hamilton, Canada, not far from Toronto, in 2003 drew just 23,768 spectators, according to one study.

As for Chesterfield being regarded as antiregionalism if it fails to participate in the bike races, Stegmaier notes that the county is involved in “literally hundreds of examples” where it has boosted regionalism where it counts, such as with public safety communications, education and mental health.

For nonessential events such as the UCI races, Stegmaier says there should be a regional body that can provide guidance. “Outside the realm of core local government services, our point is that there should be a regional mechanism for establishing regional priorities,” Stegmaier said. “Chesterfield is a regional partner.”

Correction: In earlier print and online versions of this story, we reported that Chmura Economics & Analytics estimated the 2015 cycling championships would generate $4 million in tax revenue. Chmura predicts the economic impact will lead to $3.8 million in tax revenue for the entire Richmond region. 

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