Photo by Beth Wade
Georgetown Grand planners plot alternating routes, set new dates
Despite complaints from downtown businesses and residents, the city is considering compromises to keep the Georgetown Grand bicycle race for its second year.
The event brought $264,874 into the city during race weekend May 19–20, including $157,299 to local food services, $86,196 in lodging and $21,379 in general spending by race attendees, according to a study done by the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Community and Economic Department.
“I think that’s a pretty significant number. That’s money that would not have otherwise been spent without the event,” city spokesman Keith Hutchinson said. “And it’s important to point out that that doesn’t include spectators that were down here. That was just based on the 800 racers who came, so we think it’s a fairly conservative number.”
LCRA utilized IMPLAN, a model developed by the University of Minnesota that examines increased spending during festivals and events. The results were based off 243 surveys collected from out-of-town race participants.
From the data, LCRA estimated nearly 6,000 people attended the race. Approximately 98.7 percent of those surveyed also said they would come back again for next year’s Grand.
“When we did the survey ... many of [those surveyed] said, ‘We’ve never been to Georgetown before. We like it; we’ll come back,’” Hutchinson said. “And that’s another thing that’s not counted in the economic impact study, the other impacts that happened after the weekend.”
Holland Racing, which put on the race, said it was one of the most attended events in Texas this year and hailed the race as a success.
“The event aesthetic was amazing, and the turnout and spectatorship for a first year event exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Holland Racing President Andrew Willis said. “The City of Georgetown was great to work with, and most of the local merchants and residents we met along the way were excited and helpful in the process.”
However, business owners on the Square have claimed the event led to revenue losses because downtown areas were blocked off for the race course, and parking was not available for would-be customers. Many said they had to shut down early or not open Sunday during the race because costs of keeping their stores open outweighed customer flow during the weekend.
To continue bringing visitors into the city while accommodating businesses, Hutchinson developed two new race courses with Willis that would be used alternately every other year. The courses were designed to run past different businesses each year so owners will be less likely to lose a weekend of revenue every year, Hutchinson said.
“We knew that the figure eight [route] was not the best route, so I came back with a plan based on what we heard,” he said. “One of the things that came up in that discussion was ... ‘well, can you alternate the route? Can you have it different places different years?’ I kind of took a blank map and started drawing lines.”
Some downtown businesses are supporting the two-track plan and the impact the Grand could have on bringing customers to the area.
“We’re totally pro-Grand, wherever it goes, and I think the routes seem to be a good plan for whoever is against the Grand, for whatever reason,” All Things Kids owner Christian Soeffker said. “I think the city did an awesome job in reacting fast to complaints about it and finding solutions. I’m happy. I can’t wait for 2014, when we have the start and finish in front of our door.”
However, some owners did not believe the plan is a total solution to their complaints. Linzy Bandy, owner of Bandy Jewelers, does not think either of the alternate routes will help him bring in customers.
“I don’t care. It’s not going to help me one bit,” he said.
Some businesses said they had few or no customers during the Grand event in May. Bandy said he was given little notice of when the race was scheduled.
“I just want to know ahead of time,” he said. “I’d like to have a month or two weeks … so I can plan in advance.”
However, Bandy, like Soeffker, is in favor of bringing awareness and new traffic to the city.
“Whatever’s for the city, I’m for it,” Bandy said.
Tackling every issue and making the Grand a viable event will take time, Hutchinson said. To further help businesses, the race is being moved from May to a September date, more crosswalks are being added to increase accessibility and city staff is looking at offering booth or advertising space to businesses in 2013.
“It’s something we’re certainly willing to offer,” Hutchinson said. “I’m sure we’ll do more next year to promote the whole downtown experience, and that includes the race, that includes the restaurants, that includes the shopping.”
The city will hold additional meetings as the event gets closer to keep residents and business owners informed, Hutchinson said. For now, plans will be made off the two-route map as the Grand seeks to become one of Georgetown’s signature events.