Weekend receipts end mixed for Steamboat businesses

Owners, managers report little impact from Pro Cycling Challenge, praise event

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— Not all Steamboat Springs businesses had a busier weekend as a result of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, but many cited positives from the professional bicycle race that spent parts of Friday and Saturday here.

Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett said most retailers reported no impact from having an estimated 10,000 tourists visiting to see nearly 130 riders pedal into downtown Friday afternoon. She said most restaurants reported being busy in the afternoon but not having full tables Friday night or Saturday when the riders left town for Breckenridge.

“Everybody agreed that it was an awesome event, it just wasn’t a great retail event,” said Barnett, who leads the group that promotes the downtown Steamboat shopping district. “We have this discussion at Mainstreet all the time whether an event was a retail event or a marketing event, and this was definitely a marketing event.”

Cantina Mexican Restaurant owner Jeff LaRoche said sales were up 25 to 30 percent Friday and Saturday, but not many others reported a similar bump in sales.

Chocolate Soup co-owner Nick Ciraldo said business at the cafe’s downtown and mountain locations wasn’t more than usual. He said it was just more fun.

“For us, it’s neither here nor there. I don’t think it brought us anything special except it gave us the opportunity to serve pizza to some cyclists who we otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to serve,” he said about the Liquigas-Cannondale cycling team and Tour de France winner Cadel Evans. “If the Italian cycling team gave a thumbs up to our traditional Neapolitan-style pizza, that’s great for us. Our chef was thrilled.”

Chocolate Soup also had a tent in the Lifestyle Expo and Sierra Nevada Beer Garden, which was part of a Lincoln Avenue closure from 7 p.m. Thursday to 11 p.m. Friday.

Ciraldo’s sister, Lisa, who also co-owns Chocolate Soup, operated the cafe’s vendor tent located next to the Smashburger tent. She said business isn’t what they expected.

“We prepared three days straight for it,” she said. “We didn’t sell what we were anticipating. But there was a good response, and it was exciting to be a part of it.”

Things were the same for some retailers not located downtown. Ski Haus owner Rod Schrage said the store was busy Thursday but not the rest of the weekend. While it didn’t have a significant impact on Ski Haus, Schrage nonetheless praised the event.

“When a lot of money comes to Steamboat, it will eventually trickle down to everyone,” he said. “I am 100 percent in favor of the (Pro Cycling Challenge), and if it doesn’t have a huge impact on my business, it’s not a big deal.”

Some lodging properties had strong starts to the weekend.

Rabbit Ears Motel was sold out Thursday and Friday and was at about 83 percent capacity Saturday, owner Greg Koehler said. Koehler said he typically sells out during weekends during the summer because of his proximity to downtown, but the weekend before Labor Day in past years typically isn’t busy. He couldn’t say whether Rabbit Ears would have sold out without the event.

“I think it was a pretty favorable event for Steamboat,” Koehler said. “It brought a lot of intensity and new faces in for the race. Maybe it brought a few new faces to Steamboat who thought, ‘Hey this is a good spot.’

“Would I want it back? You bet.”

Kristal Eckley, sales and marketing director for Sheraton Steamboat Resort, said the hotel was at 95 percent capacity Friday, up from 70 percent the same Friday last year. She said it was up slightly Saturday from last year — 55 percent instead of about 45 percent.

“It actually hit us at a good time, and hopefully it will come back and pick Steamboat again for a stage finish,” Eckley said.

Overland Sheepskin Co. manager Audrey Bortz said the store’s business was down significantly Friday from the same day last year and slightly down Saturday from the same day in 2010.

Bortz said it seemed like a lot of people were downtown Friday during the afternoon festivities but disappeared once the racers got to town. Like Lisa Ciraldo, Bortz had a positive opinion about the event.

“I’m glad they were here. I think it was great,” she said. “And I think the exposure was great for sure, and it will bring people to Steamboat in general.”

Barnett said despite not having the weekend they expected, many business owners were optimistic that the new visitors to Steamboat would return in the future. She added that they also were hopeful that the international exposure would attract new tourism dollars to Steamboat.

“You’ve got to get them through the first time, and that’s what we did,” Barnett said. “We got them to Steamboat when they haven’t been here before and a whole new clientele. They were following the cyclists. We’ve never marketed to them before.”

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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