When the Amgen Tour of California returns to Clovis next May, local officials hope the cowbells clanged by fans will be drowned out by the ka-ching of cash registers.
If the revenues generated by bicycle race fans in 2009 are any predictor, Clovis and neighboring cities could reap more than $1.7 million for hotel rooms, meals and other spending, officials said.
Clovis has about 275 more hotel rooms now than in 2009, which will bring more revenue into the community, Shawn Miller, the city's business development manager, said Thursday.
Miller and other community leaders, flanked by a colorfully clad group of bicycle club members and a few ringing cowbells, announced at a news conference that Clovis was successful in its bid to host the May 16 stage after a two-year absence from the tour.
As a finish line destination, Clovis will be an overnight stop for racers, their teams and supporters, many of whom likely will fill the city's 588 hotel rooms and rooms in surrounding cities.
Between hotel stays, meals and other spending, Miller estimates about $830,000 came into the Clovis economy in 2009 and another $900,000 to surrounding areas.
After the 2009 race, Amgen officials pledged to return to Clovis because of the city's organizing committee's efforts and enthusiasm of crowds at the finish line.
"Clovis has been a fantastic partner," said Kristin Bachochin, the tour's executive director. "The city and the overall community stepped up and they were not only fantastic to the riders and spectators, but to our organization. It was our goal to come back to Clovis."
Business owners were excited to learn the race will return to Clovis – and will create economic opportunities for the city, as in 2009.
"It was an awesome event," said Bob Parks, general manager of Sassano's Men's Wear in Old Town Clovis. "It was great for us, the hotels, the restaurants; it brought people here from around the world."
Cora Shipley, owner of Heart's Delight, a block from the 2009 Clovis finish line, said thousands of people learned about her business that day – and many returned later to shop.
"They may not have bought anything that day, but for weeks [afterward] people would come in and buy things," she said.
Clovis community leaders also used Thursday to kick off efforts to find sponsors, donors and 500 volunteers to work on race day. It will be an all-day festival with big-screen televisions showing the race, refreshments and national vendors offering the latest cycling and fitness technology.
Hosting could cost Clovis $150,000, but much of the money is expected to come from sponsors and donors or as in-kind contributions from volunteers, said Mike Dozier, sponsorship director for the Clovis local organizing committee.
"I understand how difficult it is to pony up money in these economic times, but this is a positive community-oriented event," he said. "It's the Super Bowl of bicycle racing in America."
The race was contested each February from 2006-09 but moved to May in 2010 to take advantage of better weather. The race is owned by Los Angeles-based AEG Sports and sponsored by biotech company Amgen.
Clovis was stymied last year in its efforts to win a stage because Amgen was unable to get a permit to start racers in Yosemite National Park.
Amgen officials learned last month that the National Park Service had denied its request for a Yosemite Valley start, leading race officials to choose Sonora as the start for the May 16 stage.
Visalia, which has twice hosted the tour – including last year, when seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong crashed on the outskirts of Visalia and abandoned the race with a bruised elbow and gash below his left eye – did not seek to be a tour host for the 2012 race, said Glen Morris, executive director of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce.
Hosting a stage requires a community to find local donors to cover expenses and organize a corps of volunteers, he said. The chamber this past summer hosted the Cal Ripken World Series and needs time to recover before hosting another large event, he said.
It's likely Clovis and Visalia will be Amgen tour stops in the future, Bachochin said, because "we look at our partners as long-term partners."
The Sonora to Clovis route is not finalized, but Mike Shuemake, the local organizing committee's route coordinator, said local officials will know more by early December.
The first part of the route will likely use Highway 49 between Sonora and Oakhurst before winding through the foothills and possibly past Bass Lake before getting to the Valley, he said.
And when the race winds into Clovis, organizers expect crowds of fans – 48,000 were on hand in 2009 – to cheer on riders.
Local race officials want the same Old Town Clovis finish line – Bullard and Pollasky avenues – where riders sprinted to a photo finish in 2009.
"We proved in 2009 we could put on a good show," said Greg Newman, the local organizing committee chair. "We know the day of the race what a great spectacle it will be."