Steamboat business and retailers have mixed opinions about the 2015 USA Pro Challenge | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat business and retailers have mixed opinions about the 2015 USA Pro Challenge

Stage 1 USA Pro Challenge jerseys were hot sellers this week at the event's souvenir stands in Steamboat Springs. Businesses elsewhere anecdotally reported mixed results from the Pro Challenge's stay in Steamboat.

— Initial reactions from local businesses to the 2015 USA Pro Challenge start in Steamboat Springs this weekend were both positive and negative.

Negative impacts were attributed to the road closures, which deterred many from venturing downtown to the shops and restaurants, while the positive impacts were based upon the long-term exposure the race brought to the town.

"Yesterday was one of our worst days since the middle of June, sales-wise," said Brett Lee, owner of Straightline. "I think people were scared to come downtown. There were more people here for the race and not the town."

All That employee Paula Salky said the management of the race was impressive and well-organized as far as the set up but added there were a lack of shoppers based on the number of visitors in town for the race and other events going on throughout the weekend.

"With all of the people we had in front of our store, if they had all come in to shop, it would've exceeded our numbers, it would've been like Christmas," Salky said. "We gave them the space, they had a great turnout and it was a wonderful group of people” with very few who stopped to eat or shop.

On the other hand, the positive impacts were perceived as being more long term. Coverage of the race in Steamboat Springs was brought to homes in more than 161 countries across three NBC networks, putting Steamboat on the map as a destination.

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"We can't buy the kind of exposure that we got," said Collin Kelley, owner of Carl's Tavern. "It was pretty awesome coverage of Steamboat on a world stage for folks planning their next vacations."

Kelley said sales from this weekend didn't live up to his expectations, but overall, Carl's was up in sales by about 35 percent for the year.

On the mountain, restaurants and hotels felt the impact of the Pro Challenge visitors in a more positive way.

"We had a great weekend for sure," said Rebecca Wheeler, manager of Paramount. "It seemed like all of the mountain side businesses benefited most on Monday, because a lot of people couldn't get downtown all day."

As to what could have been done differently, suggestions ranged from marketing the town's events more, providing a shuttle service to get downtown and incorporating more events that would attract people to Yampa Street.

"It seemed like there wasn't a lot to draw people to Yampa Street unless you were a bike fan," said John Gamradt, owner of Cugino's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant. "But, you can't make everyone happy."

In previous years, businesses like Ski & Bike Kare saw more of an increase in business with the Pro Challenge presence, but not this year.

"It was definitely better than if they weren't here but not as good as the first two times they were here," said Harry Martin, owner of Ski & Bike Kare. "Part of it was that there just wasn't as big of names for the tour this year."

Jim Clark, CEO of Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Corp., said that, although it is unfortunate there are short-term impacts from the Pro Challenge presence, the exposure afforded Steamboat will be of greater benefit to the town when looking at the long-term impacts.

"We were basically on worldwide TV promoting Steamboat," said Martin. "With having the start here, stations like Channel 9 News did stories on Steamboat about the town and its history. That has to help somehow."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1