Columbia will host a leg of the first Tour of Missouri cycling race if the City Council appropriates up to $60,000 to the Convention and Visitors Bureau this month.
The bureau raised its funding request from $30,000 on Thursday morning to secure basic hotel and food accommodations for the cyclists and their crews. Originally, the projected funding need accounted only for cyclists, but about 224 rooms must also be secured for the entourage traveling with them, said Lorah Steiner, executive director of the bureau.
“We have given them a provisional yes,” Steiner said. “That is still contingent on the council saying yes. All we are trying to do is guarantee that we can go forward.”
Gov. Matt Blunt announced the Tour of Missouri in October, and Medalist Sports, the tour’s organizer, approached Columbia officials in November about hosting part of the tour. Medalist Sports is an international sports marketing company.
The statewide six-day race will be the first of its kind in Missouri. Similar races in Georgia and California have attracted professional athletes from around the world, according to the event’s organizers.
The tour will run through urban and rural areas of Missouri to show participants and home viewers “a little piece of everything,” said Chris Aronhalt, the managing partner, of Medalist Sports.
The proposal to allocate money from the city’s unreserved fund balance for the tour will go before the council at its next meeting and will be voted on at the following meeting.
“The council has the final say,” Steiner said.
In the meantime, the bureau will begin researching sponsorship and community fundraising opportunities in order to offset that cost.
Since the tour is in September, organizers find themselves planning in months what often takes years.
“Normally for an event like this, you have 18 months to two years to plan for it,” Steiner said. “They want a response from us now.”
“Because of the short time frame, no one is already organized to raise this money,” Steiner said. “If we say yes to the tour, we need to assure the event organizer that we can meet the financial requirements.”
Aronhalt said the organization hopes to finalize the statewide route within the next few days.
“We don’t want to rush into it, but everyone is anxious to get this race going,” Aronhalt said. “Our first step is to make sure that everyone is comfortable.”
Aronhalt called Columbia a “logical consideration” for the tour because of MU’s importance to the state and because of its proximity to Jefferson City, which will also be highlighted on the tour.
“We’d be honored to go to Columbia,” Aronhalt said. “It’s one of the more key cities. It’s a great college town. Columbia itself has a great market.”
Tom Brinker, owner of CyclExtreme Bicycle Warehouse, agrees Columbia is an important market for cycling events.
“Cycling is much bigger in this community than many people might know or think,” Brinker said. “We’re prime for an event like this to come through here. We’re an upscale community with lots of interest and resources. This is going to be something unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”