Steamboat merchants eye cycling potential
Steamboat business owners discuss economic impacts of summer events
May 13, 2011
Steamboat Springs — One look at Steamboat Springs' summer cycling calendar and it's pretty obvious there are significant events coming to town with economic opportunities.
In another 10 years, local officials think those opportunities could be even more prominent and generate an additional $7 million in sales-tax revenue.
Local merchants gathered Friday afternoon at Rex's American Grill & Bar to learn about the economic impacts of cycling and how businesses could profit. The program was put on by the Bike Town USA Initiative and the Colorado Mountain College Small Business Resource Center and was attended by about 30 people.
"Can we leverage cycling to make it look more like what skiing and snowboarding does for Steamboat in the winter?" asked Rich Lowe, who has been studying cycling economics for the Bike Town USA Initiative.
Lowe thinks cycling might be one of the ways Steamboat can help occupy the 25,000 pillows in lodging properties during summer.
Lowe pointed out that only 2 percent of the U.S. population skis or snowboards compared with the 27 percent who bike. That's 86 million cyclists. Lowe said cycling generates $133 billion in the U.S. economy and supports 1.1 million jobs.
Locally, there is reason to think Steamboat could begin capturing more of those cycling dollars. For example, Steamboat Ski Area is expected to begin building more trails in summer, including ones dedicated to downhill riding. Jim Schneider, vice president of skier services for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., told Friday's audience that the ski area attracts only a relative few mountain bikers a day compared with the 2,000 who visit Whistler, British Columbia, facilities daily.
"Will we ever get to 2,000?" Schneider asked. "I don't know. We think we can get to a couple hundred."
Summer cycling events will promote Steamboat as a cycling destination. Larger events include Ride the Rockies, which will bring 2,000 cyclists through Steamboat for two nights June 14 and 15. The statewide USA Pro Cycling Challenge Millennium Promise professional cycling stage race is expected to attract 15,000 visitors to Steamboat on Aug. 26 and 27.
"We do think it's going to be a big event," said Schneider, who is serving as the local event chairman.
This is a big summer for cycling in Steamboat, but local officials are pondering the long-term economic forecast as it relates to cycling.
According to a 10-year model, Steamboat could see 161,000 bike visitors annually.
"It's not that much growth over what we're already doing," Lowe said.
With each visitor spending an estimated $113 each day during a four-day trip, more than $73 million could be pumped into the local economy each year, Lowe said. It could create nearly 700 jobs and contribute $3 million in sales tax revenue to the city and $725,000 to the county.
"It's a big deal," Lowe said. "That's a lot of tax revenue."