Steamboat Springs Traffic on Lincoln Avenue came to a not-quite-screeching halt Tuesday afternoon as barricades went up and organizers began planning for the oncoming USA Pro Challenge, at that point still more than 27 hours off.
Business owners along that street said that although they might be a bit disappointed to see traffic shut down for so long, they’re enthusiastic about what it means.
When the USA Pro Challenge soars into Steamboat Springs late Wednesday afternoon, Steamboat’s main street will be ready.
“Last time, there was just so much energy,” said Harry Martin, owner of Steamboat Ski & Bike Kare. “I’ve never seen the town so excited before. I’m excited.”
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The 2011 Pro Challenge stop in Steamboat did bring about some tangible economic benefit. Sales tax collections for that month spiked 8.46 percent compared with August 2010, the highest jump of any month that year. Business particularly was good in lodging, which was up 7.68 percent, sporting goods up 16.08 percent, restaurants up 8.09 percent and liquor stores up 7.95 percent.
Downtown businesses were hoping for a similar bump this month, but they were divided Tuesday as to what the two Steamboat stages of the third annual Pro Challenge will mean to their bottom lines.
Many were bulking up, on the average adding about 50 percent more staff than they would on a regular late-summer weekday. Others were focused on tailoring their offerings, claiming to have learned lessons from the race’s only other stop in town in 2011.
“It was big the last time,” said Tyler Loomis, general manager at Beau Jo’s Pizza, 704 Lincoln Ave., a block from the finish line. “We had one of the better days we’ve ever had. These cyclists, they liked the pastas a lot. That wasn’t something we were ready for. Normally, we don’t sell a lot of pasta.”
They’ll be better prepared this year with a pasta special tailored to the audience that is expected to line up eight or 10 people deep on the street in front of the shop.
Down the street at Ski & Bike Kare, they were gearing up for what they only hope is a repeat of 2011. Martin said the day of the downtown finish that year was the best day the shop ever has had, business driven largely — 80 percent, he said — by the sale of official Pro Challenge jerseys at $85 each.
The store had a tent selling gear set up at the downtown finish two years ago. The success realized there convinced Martin to set up another tent at the Thursday Stage 4 start at the base of Steamboat Ski Area.
“We sold more clothes that day than we sell in a whole month,” Martin said.
To deal with the expected surge, the usual daily staff of six will be more than doubled to 13.
A half-block from the finish at Kali’s Boutique, 525 Lincoln Ave., the phone has been ringing nonstop. Jill Ackerman said 2011 was great for her, both professionally as customers flocked into her shop and personally as friends and staff headed to the roof for a front-row view of the finish.
“Everyone is asking if they can come down to the roof,” she said. “It’s close friends only right now.”
Bribes, she joked later, always are appreciated.
“It was fabulous in 2011. We had a great day, a wonderful day. I’ve never seen so many people in front of my store in 20 years,” she said. “We were up on the roof, and we had the best time. We’re so excited to do it again.”
She’s not stocking any extra dresses for the event, but one block in the other direction from the finish, The Hungry Dog is stocking up with 50 percent more hot dogs.
Owner Brad Somers said he and five other employees will be staffing the main location at Seventh Street and Lincoln Avenue as well as a cart a block down the road.
Not everyone is expecting to need extra staffing, however.
At All That Jazz, which will be right at the finish line, there was hope that the race’s international exposure will benefit all businesses in the long run. There isn’t much hope for a big day Wednesday or Thursday.
“The traffic was all out there,” said Bronwyn Rittner, working in 2011 at Zirkel Trading a block away. “We’ll probably get a lot of people asking for the bathroom.”
The staff working Tuesday worried that they were too close to the finish and that all the apparatuses set up by the race would serve as distractions.
“There will be all those barriers out there. We’re second row, second tier. We don’t matter,” music manager Kevin King said. “It’s similar to the Fourth of July parade. There will be tons of people out there. Some will come in to look, but most will just pass by.”
Still, they were doing what they could to try to make the most of it. Several bike-related gift books beckoned on the counter next to the cash register, and Rittner said his son will be selling water outside the front door.
For businesses expecting big things and small, packing thousands of people on their doorsteps is something they can’t complain about too much.
“There were people here from all over last time,” said Somers, who also compared the event to the Fourth of July parade, though in a more positive light. “We’ll take any kind of tourism boost we can get, especially this time of year.”
2013 USA Pro Challenge road closures