Steamboat Springs The phones were ringing early and often Wednesday at the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association’s visitors center, with resort officials now predicting that tourism will swell dramatically to between 9,000 and 10,000 overnight visitors Friday as cycling fans scramble at the last minute to see the USA Pro Cycling Challenge finish Stage 4 in downtown Steamboat and start Stage 5 the next morning from the mountain area.
“We feel confident in that 8,000 to 10,000 number,” Chamber spokeswoman Michelle Krasilinec said. “All of the phone calls I’ve been fielding, people have been asking ‘How do I get there?’ and ‘What’s else is going on, on Saturday?’”
The Steamboat Springs lodging community donated hundreds of room nights to help secure the community’s bid to host a stage of the bike race, which is receiving international TV coverage. However, it wasn’t clear a week before the event if it would translate into a late-August bounce in tourism. Steamboat notched its typical last tourism peak of the summer during the first week in August and then began a gradual seasonal decline in lodging occupancy.
Three lodging properties on U.S. Highway 40 reported Wednesday afternoon that they are booked full Friday night and closing in on 100 percent occupancy Saturday night.
Savanna McGlone, manager of the Steamboat Campground, said her 130 campsites just west of downtown Steamboat are full.
“We’ve had a number of phone calls from people interested in the bicycle race,” and although they have converted into reservations, it wouldn’t be accurate to say the race is dominating her property this weekend, McGlone said.
A spokeswoman at the front desk of the Rabbit Ears Motel, which is situated very close to what is expected to be a sprint for the finish Friday afternoon, said their 66 rooms are booked that evening.
“We most definitely are getting a lot of reservations from the race,” she said.
The Rabbit Ears Motel was on pace to be full Saturday night, as well.
Jay Wetzler has 92 rooms between the Steamboat Hotel and the Bunkhouse Lodge on the west side of U.S. 40 south of town, where the pro cyclists will head toward Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday morning. Both properties are full Friday night, and Wetzler expects to fill up Saturday night, too.
“A week and a half ago we had 25 vacancies for Saturday night, but we’re down to single digits now,” Wetzler said. “I think we’re going to have a great weekend. We’ve had a very good August. We’re up 30 percent over August last year.”
The Chamber’s lodging barometer, which forecasts lodging occupancy every Wednesday and Saturday, projected 4,600 visitors would spend the night here Saturday — about 200 more than were projected for the same Saturday night in 2010.
However, the Chamber sent an email to its members Tuesday reminding them that the barometer does not capture Friday nights and urging them to staff up for the race events Friday and Saturday.
Krasilinec confirmed the Chamber conducted a special one-time lodging forecast to confirm its sense that Friday would be a busy day in area lodges, restaurants and shops.
She said the Chamber’s polling after the fact has shown all summer that Steamboat picks up about 10 percent in visitation between the time it releases its weekly lodging forecast on Wednesdays and actual check-ins for Saturday.
“And we don’t include people who come and stay with friends and vacation rentals by owners,” Krasilinec said.
The impact of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge could still grow, she said.
12:15 p.m. Stage 4 begins in Avon
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Moots Cycles factory tour
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kent Eriksen Cycles factory tour
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lifestyle Expo and Sierra Nevada Beer Garden on Lincoln Avenue. Expo will feature food, official race merchandise, a Kids Zone and more.
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live music at the Lifestyle Expo
12:15 p.m. U.S. Paracycling Challenge start at Sixth Street and Lincoln Avenue
1 to 3 p.m. Live music at the Lifestyle Expo with Steamboat’s Loose Change
2 p.m. Live race feed begins on the big screens on Lincoln Avenue
2 p.m. U.S. Paracycling Challenge finish and awards ceremony
3:30 p.m. Approximate finish of Stage 4 of the Pro Cycling Challenge
3:45 p.m. Approximate start of Stage 4 award ceremonies downtown
5:30 p.m. Start of Free Summer Concert Series performance at Howelsen Hill with 3 Twins Broadband and members of the Subdudes
9 p.m. Fireworks show at Howelsen Hill
9:30 a.m. Pro Cycling Challenge teams arrive at Meadows Parking Lot
9:30 a.m. Lifestyle Expo opens
9:30 a.m. Pro Cycling Challenge Hospitality Tent opens
10 a.m. Pro Cycling Challenge announcers introduce and interview representatives
10:15 a.m. Athletes alley
10:30 a.m. Stage 5 start ceremony
11:20 a.m. Stage 5 starts from Meadows Parking Lot
11:35 a.m. STARS Charity Ride start
2 to 5 p.m. STARS Charity Ride party in Little Toots Park
8 p.m. SmartWool Show & Shine bike cruise at Howelsen Hill
9 p.m. SmartWool Bike-in Movie “Best in Show” at Howelsen Hill
Road closures, detours
The eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 40 will be closed to traffic beginning at 11:45 a.m. Friday from South Pine Grove Road (at the Mountain Fire Station and Ski Town Fields) to Third Street to accommodate the 130 riders in the USA Pro Cycling Challenge as well as a separate time trial race for elite hand-cyclists from 12:15 to 2:30 p.m.
During the time, that the eastbound lanes are closed, orange cones placed by the Colorado Department of Transportation will divide traffic headed in both directions on the two lanes usually reserved for westbound traffic.
The Pro Cycling Challenge cyclists will arrive in Steamboat via Colorado Highway 131 to Routt County Road 14F and then take C.R. 14 (River Road) to the Mount Werner Road intersection at Tree Haus. Riders will then ride up the U.S. 40 off ramp in the wrong direction for the sprint into downtown.
As soon as the lead riders emerge onto the highway from the off ramp, all traffic on the highway will be stopped for safety reasons.
To prepare for the finish, Lincoln Avenue will be closed from Fifth Street to 11th Street beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday. Traffic will be re-routed from Lincoln Avenue to Oak Street at Third and 11th streets during that time. Side streets will remain open until 10 p.m. Thursday. At 10 p.m., all remaining cross streets will be closed.
At 10 a.m. Friday, Lincoln Avenue will be closed from Fifth Street to Third Street. That stretch of Lincoln Avenue will be the first to reopen following the event, with all other cross streets reopening as quickly as possible. Lincoln Avenue is expected to reopen at about 11 p.m. Friday.
As soon as the last racer finishes the race, CDOT will pick up the cones and traffic will revert to a normal pattern on U.S. 40 from Third Street east.
Local organizers for the race are urging folks to consider walking, biking or taking the bus Friday and Saturday.
Cyclists can take advantage of bike corrals that will be set up at Third Street and Lincoln Avenue, at the parking lot next to the ambulance barn at Ninth and Yampa streets, and at Steamboat Springs High School for the Friday finish stage downtown. A bike corral will be at the Meadows Parking Lot for Saturday’s stage start.
Steamboat Springs Transit’s free city buses will operate under their normal summer schedule throughout the event, and will offer expanded routes between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday.
The five expanded routes include:
■ A West Steamboat Line serving the area from the Steamboat Campground east to the Stock Bridge Transit Center and ending at a special stop established where the Yampa River Core Trail meets 13th Street.
■ A Lincoln Avenue Black Line that serves the area from the Stock Bridge Transit Center east to stops along Oak Street and then along U.S. Highway 40 to the Safeway and Central Park Plaza before ending at the Gondola Transit Center.
■ The Yellow Line will run its typical route with the exception of not serving the Howelsen Hill area.
■ The Steamboat Boulevard Line will follow Steamboat Boulevard from the Gondola Transit Center to a special stop between Third and Fourth streets downtown. The line will avoid U.S. 40.
■ The Condo Line will serve the mountain area and transfer passengers at the Gondola Transit Center.
Steamboat Springs Transit plans to offer normal service Saturday, but with extra buses on its normal routes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Downtown Steamboat parking will be limited. Instead, public parking is encouraged at Howelsen Hill, the Howelsen Ice Arena and Steamboat Springs High School. Parking at the high school won’t be available until after 1 p.m.
Stage 5 starts from the Meadows Parking Lot at Mount Werner and Pine Grove roads, and that’s also where public parking will be available for spectators.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com