JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that $1.5 million in previously frozen state tourism funds can be spent on the 2009 Tour of Missouri bicycle race.
Nixon's administration had blocked the money last week and was considering whether to eliminate the funding altogether. Race organizers said cutting the state funds from the cross-state race's $3.3 million budget would have forced it to be canceled and likely never run again.
The Democratic governor said Tuesday that he thinks the Tour of Missouri should go forward and that he is allowing the $1.5 million to be spent on the race after tourism officials and race organizers agreed to share financial information related to the event, including details on spending, with his administration.
"The race will go on this year, and Missourians deserve to know that state funds for the event are used transparently and accountably," Nixon said in a written statement. "They should know precisely how money for the Tour of Missouri is being spent, and that the event is being run in a way that minimizes the cost to taxpayers."
The Tour of Missouri is to be run Sept. 7-13 with circuit races in St. Louis and Kansas City. An individual time trial is set for Sedalia, and four road races are planned: Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau; Farmington to Rolla; St. James to Jefferson City; and Chillicothe to St. Joseph.
About 15 professional teams are expected to participate in one of the few highly rated professional bicycle races outside Europe, including the Astana team for which Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador ride.
The possibility of cancellation prompted outrage from race organizers and supporters alike. The Missouri Tourism Commission called a Friday meeting to reaffirm its support for the race and questioned whether the governor's office could dictate how tourism funds are spent. Supporters also said blocking funds could cost the state more money through breach-of-contract lawsuits.
Among the Tour of Missouri's most vocal supporters is Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who also is chairman of the Tourism Commission. Kinder had urged racing fans to contact Nixon's office and ask that the money for the race be unfrozen.
A spokesman for Kinder and a spokeswoman for the Tourism Commission did not immediately return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Of the $3.3 million budget for the Tour of Missouri, $1.5 million comes from the state Tourism Division, $500,000 from a state finance board and the rest from corporate and private donors.
An economic analysis of last year's race found spectators spent about $30 million, slightly more than half of which came from non-Missourians. The study was done by Germany-based IFM Sports, which has an office in St. Louis, and paid for by the state of Missouri.