Asheville tourism officials on Wednesday agreed to spend $90,000 over three years to lure and support a European-style bicycling race for amateur riders called Haute Route.
If Asheville’s bid is successful, the city would be one of three in the U.S. to host event in 2018 and the two following years.
Demp Bradford, executive director of the Asheville Buncombe Regional Sports Commission, told the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority during its monthly meeting that the race would bring an estimated 300 riders and their supporters to town for an event that would garner international exposure and enhance Western North Carolina reputation as an area that plays host to elite cycling events.
Bradford, who said he’d been in talks with Haute Route organizers for about five months, added that the event would be held in May 2018 and would help boost the sale of hotel rooms during that time.
Bradford told the TDA that the $90,000 commitment to Haute Route over three years includes a $60,000 bid fee. He said he would be asking the city of Asheville for a $10,000 commitment, which would come in the form of in-kind services related to the event, which would be headquartered in downtown Asheville. Another $10,000 would come from corporate sponsorships that he’s seeking, Bradford said.
Bicycling events work in Asheville, Bradford said, pointing to the success of the USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross National Championships event held in January 2016 at the Biltmore Estate. The event attracted 2,000 people over a 10-day period during what has historically been a slow month for tourism in Asheville.
Stephanie Brown, executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her organization supported going after the Haute Route event, echoing Bradford’s comments.
The Buncombe County TDA board voted unanimously to appropriate the money for the event.
Bradford said the TDA board would be seeing more of him as he executes a plan to push Asheville as a sports tourism destination. The goal is to recruit four major sports events each year that raise the region’s profile, he said.
There’s a new physical connection between the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and the sports commission, as well: the CVB recently moved to a new location on College Place, a location that includes new office space for the sports commission, the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association and the Asheville Symphony.