El Tour looks to city and county to fill financial gap

2013-11-05T00:00:00Z El Tour looks to city and county to fill financial gap By Mariana Dale For the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

After losing its title sponsor, El Tour de Tucson is looking to the city and Pima County to fill some of the financial void .

The city of Tucson has already agreed to almost double its financial commitment to the community’s premier cycling event, kicking in an extra $25,000. Today, the county Board of Supervisors will consider doing the same.

Tucson had previously approved $25,586 for the Nov. 23 event, while the county previously agreed to put up $26,063.

For the last six years, El Tour has been sponsored by the University of Arizona Medical Center, which dropped to a lower level of sponsorship this year, creating a $250,000 gap in the budget.

Perimeter Bicycling, the nonprofit that organizes the race, raised more than half of the additional funding but still needs $56,000.

The cost of securing the cycling circuit has risen in recent years, according to President and race founder Richard DeBernardis.

“Our event requires more safety equipment than any other event in the community,” DeBernardis said. “There’s no event that uses 111 miles of the county.”

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry issued a memorandum imploring the Board of Supervisors to fund El Tour in October.

“Richard DeBernardis came to us awhile ago,” said Assistant County Administrator Nanette Slusser. “We suggested if the region was willing to participate, we would match.”

If the request for more money is approved, the additional $25,000 will come from the board’s contingency fund.

The city approved its added contribution over the summer. The $25,000 infusion is a mix of money from the general fund and Ward 5 Councilman Richard Fimbres, who assigned $10,000 to El Tour from his ward’s budget surplus.

“El Tour has been a great generator for us in the tourism field,” Fimbres said. “I was more than happy to try to help them continue to meet their goal of fundraising.”

“We understand that their costs have gone up because we need to keep the riders safe and the community safe during the event,” Chief Financial Officer Kelly Gottschalk said.

The city’s initial $25,586 allocation for this year’s event was from its economic and workforce development grants program.

El Tour funding represents almost 42 percent of the money originally set aside by the city for special events this year. The organization with the second-highest amount of funding is the Tucson Festival of Books, which received $18,000.

The city’s level of support has fluctuated from $22,000 in fiscal year 2013 to less than $15,000 in 2011 and 2012.

“It is difficult to give money to events because the city’s budget continues to be strapped, but this is one of the biggest economic-driving events that we have,” Gottschalk said. She estimated that only the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show brings more tourism dollars to Tucson.

DeBernardis said money from the city and county will help abate the high cost of police, about $150,000.

“You still need the same safety equipment if you have 1,000 or 10,000 cyclists,” DeBernardis said. “Your expense for police and safety will remain the same. “

Barricades used to partition the race route are also one of the largest expenses.

“In two or three years, it has gone from $29,000 to over a $100,000 bill, so that’s like a 300 percent increase,” DeBernardis said.

The total cost of the race, or its profits, won’t be determined until the end of November, but DeBernardis estimated the final bill at about $1.8 million.

He said registration numbers at this point have surpassed last year’s total, with about 5,800 cyclists signed up.

“In the next two weeks, another 2,500 to 3,000 register,” DeBernardis said. “That’s always the way.”

Replacing the title sponsor funding has been hard, he said.

“Looking at the businesses in this community that can afford that money, there’s not that many,” DeBernardis said of the $250,000 title sponsor package.

But a number of businesses have chipped in to help fill the gap, he said, and the organization will accept bids for sponsorship until Friday.

In future years, he said, El Tour will have to reconsider how it funds the ride. The group is considering several options, from raising participation fees to securing more sponsors.

“We will put the event on; there is no doubt,” DeBernardis, “Will we lose or will we make money this year? We don’t know that.”

Mariana Dale is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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