Cycling event will call Salisbury home

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — The 11th annual Crossroads Classic cycling races will call Salisbury and Rowan County home this summer, thanks to a $10,000 sponsorship by the local tourism bureaus.
The Salisbury Rowan Joint Tourism Marketing Committee, a partnership between the Salisbury and Rowan tourism development authorities, voted unanimously Thursday to sponsor the five-day event for $10,000.
Three of the five races on Aug. 3-7 will be held in Salisbury, and only Rowan County hotels will be promoted for overnight stays.
For the past several years, a Crossroads Classic race has come to Salisbury and four other cities each year, but no host city has ever been chosen.
Charlotte Sports Cycling manages the event and has relied mainly on corporate sponsorships in the past, said owner Neal Boyd.
“This event will be centered around Salisbury and will have a greater impact on this community instead of having a smaller impact on five different communities,” Boyd told the committee during a June 9 special meeting.
Two local events would be added to the Thursday criterium in downtown Salisbury — a High Rock Road Race on Saturday and a City Park Circuit Race on Sunday.
Wednesday’s and Friday’s races would be held in downtown Concord and downtown Statesville.
“We’ll encourage everybody, even if they race in Statesville or Concord, to make this the central location where they stay the entire time,” Boyd said.
One reason all five races aren���t in Salisbury, he said, is to continue the event in two nearby cities that also have a lot of local support.
“It’s also not as much of a burden on local authorities,” Boyd said. “In a way, Salisbury reaps the rewards of somebody else supporting the event.”
Last year, 459 competitors entered a total of 1,600 race events. The committee asked Boyd how far cyclists have traveled to the races and whether they’re likely to stay overnight.
In 2009, he said, 197 finishing cyclists came from at least 60 miles away to race in Salisbury, and 96 came from at least 120 miles away.
When it rained during the Salisbury race in 2010, those numbers went down to 137 and 68. But that doesn’t mean more cyclists weren’t here, Boyd said.
He said even on a typical day, about 20 percent of registered participants either don’t finish or don’t race that day, but they often still stay in the area.
The Joint Tourism Marketing Committee had decided at its June 2 regular meeting to ask that Charlotte Sports Cycling lower the cost to $5,000 by only spending it on marketing.
At that meeting, Executive Director James Meacham said he didn’t think the sponsorship was worth $10,000, but he changed his mind last week once he saw Boyd’s statistics.
More than 133 hotel room nights at $75 per night would cover the cost and generate revenue for the local tourism industry, Meacham said. Over five days, that works out to 26 rooms per night.
“I think 26 room nights is very feasible based on the numbers, even if you strike out the hour drive folks and look at just the ones two hours away,” he said after Boyd left on June 9.
Meacham said tourism officials should work with Charlotte Sports Cycling to make sure sponsorship money is spent primarily on marketing the event to cyclists who will come from out of town.
“Does it seem like there’s a potential for this to be an annual thing here, or will they move it around?” asked Andrew Waters, a representative of the N.C. Central Land Trust.Meacham said the event has a strong connection to Salisbury, so it’s possible the city will continue to host it. He said Boyd told him this is one of the easiest communities to work with.
Crossroads Classic still will bring just one race to downtown Salisbury, so merchants won’t have to deal with additional days of road closures, Meacham said.
Glenda Dyson, owner Just The Thing, said downtown businesses typically aren’t open at the time of the evening race anyway.
“Last year, I had people leave their bikes in the alcove of my store,” she said. “I didn’t care, because I’m closed, so what does it matter?”
The day after Thursday’s race is a Friday Night Out in Salisbury. Many of the cyclists will be in Statesville that evening, but Dyson said those who aren’t racing should be invited to the downtown event, when merchants will be open.
The committee didn’t have enough members present to vote on June 9, so it called another special meeting for Thursday and unanimously approved the sponsorship.
Meacham said Thursday that hotel representatives are “very confident we can generate more than enough hotel night stays” on a weekend when not much else typically brings in revenue.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.