Paso Robles’ leaders hope the Amgen Tour of California’s international attention will lay the groundwork for visitors to explore the town in years to come.
“It’s about planting the seed,” Mayor Duane Picanco said of the spotlight to be had when the race rolls through in May 2011.
AEG, the company that puts on the tour, officially announced Paso Robles’ selection Thursday as one of the host cities for the race next year.
Based on the format of the Tour de France, the sixth annual cycling event spends eight days traveling through California. Cyclists begin the race in Lake Tahoe on May 15 and finish in Thousand Oaks on May 22. Altogether, the tour will cover more than 800 miles.
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The race will be broadcast live to 90 countries around the world, said Andrew Messick, president of AEG.
The city, chosen for the second time as the finish line for the fifth stage, will host the race May 19 — the day before the Paso Robles Wine Festival.
The cross-promotional opportunities for cycling and wine are paramount, officials say.
Organizers said they will market it as a five-day event, so tourists come for one and experience both.
“It’s about layering our investments whether it’s wine, a great downtown or saying ‘I saw the Amgen Tour there,’ ” said police Chief Lisa Solomon, who is heading the tour’s local organizing committee.
Ideas to marry bikes and wine are now in the works — such as dual advertising or pouring wine where spectators gather.
Seven hotels have committed roughly 700 rooms for the cyclists and their entourage at an undisclosed discount price, Solomon said.
City officials estimate it could cost $120,000 to be a host city — a goal Solomon thinks they can make.
Donations from caterers and eateries to feed athletes and race crews are also being sought as part of host city requirements.
The Amgen setup team arrives on a Wednesday, Solomon added, so the mid-week slot is appealing to hoteliers.
Some say it’s a sacrifice to give up rooms in May when hoteliers are already busy. Solomon said those who committed rooms think the long-term impact is worth it.
Her committee received $65,000 in sponsorship commitments for the race in late September. Two additional donors pledged undisclosed sums Thursday.
San Luis Obispo, whose officials didn’t bid for a 2011 stage because of the expense, held stage finishes in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Shelly Stanwyck, acting parks and recreation director for San Luis Obispo, said recently that the city did a cost/benefit analysis, and given the economic challenges facing San Luis Obispo, it “seemed to be too costly” for the benefits associated with bringing the race to town. Stanwyck added that the city preferred the race’s previous February time slot because that’s typically the off-season for tourism, while May is busier.
Picanco initially didn’t support hosting the race because any potential fundraising shortfalls would hit the city’s general fund for police and fire service.
He now says that while he hopes the committee raises the money, he realizes the level of media attention the race draws is unlike any advertising the city could buy.
County Supervisor Frank Mecham said the race supports the entire county.
“Paso Robles won’t be the only place people to come and stay,” he said. “I hope all the hotels in the North County are full and that spills over into our other areas.”
The specific race route will be released in mid-December or early January, Messick said.
In 2009, cyclists sprinted from Shandon, over the Niblick Bridge and down Spring Street to thousands of spectators at City Park.
In 2011, cyclists will come from the west because organizers wanted to return to a coastal route, arriving on Highway 1 from Big Sur.
The race skipped over the Central Coast entirely in 2010 when an inland route and a May time slot were selected for better weather and training terrain.
“Our teams and athletes liked being in Paso Robles and liked the Central Coast,” Messick said.