2012 USA Pro Challenge once again draws more than 1 million fans
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite the dark shadow cast by Lance Armstrong, cycling remains an extremely popular spectator sport, with this past summer’s edition of the USA Pro Challenge once again drawing more than 1 million viewers, according to race organizers.
Almost incredibly, race organizers this week sent out a press release on the race that didn’t include a single mention of Armstrong, who helped found the race, or the fact that the winners of the first two editions of the race, Levi Leipheimer and Christian Vande Velde are inextricably linked with the Lance Armstrong story.
Instead, the press release focused on the economic benefits of the race, estimating that it generated a $99.6 million economic impact on the state, as visitors flocked to towns along the route, spending money on lodging and in local restaurants.
Fans from outside the state and Coloradans traveling 50 miles or more to take in an event stage contributed $81.5 million on lodging, food, transportation and entertainment. The remaining economic impact comes in the form of team, staff, sponsor and vendor spending, employment created by the event, and the resulting tax effects of the race.
The study suggests that about half the spectators traveled to Colorado specifically to watch the race, and 76 percent said they were very likely or likely to return to watch the race next year.
“The crowds at the 2012 USA Pro Challenge were unlike anything I’ve ever seen outside of the big races in Europe,” said Shawn Hunter, CEO of the Pro Challenge. “Driving the course every day and seeing the enthusiasm and passion from the fans lining the streets really gave a sense of the growing support for the sport of cycling in the U.S. This race showcases Colorado and provides an incredible economic impact that will hopefully be here for years to come.”
Given the pervasive problems of doping, lying and cheating, It’s hard to say if the sport will maintain its popularity or fade away like pro boxing, but for now, the Colorado race looks like it will continue to be a big success.
The 2012 race attracted spectators from at least 25 states across the country, with the top five after Colorado being Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and California. It also proved an exceptional following among Colorado residents, one of the significant contributing factors to the level of enthusiasm displayed by spectators along the entire 683-mile course.
“One of our main goals is to grow competitive cycling in America and the USA Pro Challenge is doing just that,” said Steve Johnson, president and CEO of USA Cycling, the national governing body for bicycle racing in the United States.”From the level of competition, to the huge crowds of fans lining the streets, to the overall organization, this race is exactly what we need in professional cycling.”
Additional findings from the report:
- Spectators traveled in groups, with the average party consisting of three people.
- While the median household income of Colorado residents is $56,456, race spectators averaged a household income of $110,000.
- Spectators were satisfied with almost all parts of the race and the experience, with more than 86 percent saying they were very satisfied or satisfied with the race.
- More than half of spectators in attendance reported they ride a bike for fitness, while roughly 21.9 percent responded they ride a bike occasionally or not at all.
- This was an audience that appreciates the world class level of competition at the USA Pro Challenge and watches major cycling events on television, with 93.4 percent stating they watch part of the Tour de France.
- The race drew spectators for various reasons with 64 percent wanting to witness the elite level of competition, 45 percent interested in the destination cities and 46 percent wanting to experience the start/finish festivals.
- Spectators’ experiences with the USA Pro Challenge positively influenced their view of the State of Colorado, with 75 percent of out-of-state visitors stating they are more likely or much more likely to visit Colorado again based on their experience at the USA Pro Challenge.
IFM designed the study from the outset to address many of the contentious issues surrounding economic impact assessments. Key areas addressed included:
- Substitution effects – Since local fans will often spend similar amounts on local sports and other entertainment, IFM did not include the local fan spend in the economic impact report.
- Time shifting – Colorado is an attractive destination for travel, so IFM deliberately filtered respondents to ensure they were not capturing data from spectators already in Colorado, independent of the Pro Challenge, and also used elimination questions to remove those fans who intended to come to Colorado in the near future independent of the race
- Sample sizes – Large samples were taken at all stages, distributed across the race locations.