Tour de Crystal Lake seeks city support

CRYSTAL LAKE – The return of Tour de Crystal Lake has hit early road bumps while city officials are undecided whether to give organizers a $20,000 grant to run the summer race.

Marco Colbert, executive director for Prairie State Cycling Series, hopes to receive $20,000 from the hotel/motel tax fund to bring back Tour de Crystal Lake in July – a race that debuted last year in downtown Crystal Lake, attracting 300 competitors and just less than 1,000 spectators.

While Crystal Lake City Council members praised the event, some were concerned with the amount of money requested, a potential violation of the council’s own rules of only giving to nonprofits out of that fund and whether the event could grow from its debut numbers.

Colbert said he would attempt to secure enough sponsorship money to reimburse some of the city’s grant, but believed the race fit the hotel/motel tax fund’s purpose of supporting events that bring people to the city and promote community activity.

“We think Crystal Lake is the perfect venue and it’s right in the heart of the downtown and shows off all the features,” Colbert said. “My experience has been that in the right venue – and I think Crystal Lake is a right venue – revenue grows in subsequent years and they become self sustainable.”

Crystal Lake financially supported the event last year, granting $9,000 out of the general fund that was matched with $9,000 out of the McHenry County Convention & Visitors Bureau budget. The bureau is not expected to be able to support the race this year.

Mayor Aaron Shepley, a cycling enthusiast, strongly supported the grant request and said the council should invest in the event and give it an opportunity to grow as it has in St. Charles and the other stops on the seven-race circuit.

“We would not be doing ourselves justice ... if we did not see it come back one more year,” Shepley said, which was echoed by councilman Jeff Thorsen. “Years two and three are when you start seeing the crowds grow.”

The city would have the funding for the event with $101,474 projected to be in the hotel/motel tax fund at the end of the 2014-15 fiscal year. The city is projected to bring in $290,000 in that fund during the 2014-15 fiscal year and has already committed $292,000 in expenditures.

Councilman Brett Hopkins said other organizations also are seeking funding and he would like to see all requests before approving an amount for any event.

“We have limited funds and we need to find a mechanism for allocating them all fairly,” Hopkins said. “I would like to see this go back so we can see it with all the other requests.”

Councilwoman Ellen Brady-Mueller said funding the event could appear as favoritism as the city has not given money for the annual triathlon in any year. She also had concerns about how many spectators the race could draw, although she said she enjoyed it last year.

“I don’t know anyone that watches the Tour de France ... it’s not like it’s football,” she said. “It’s always a great event for the riders. ... I just don’t know how you get spectators to grow.”

The Prairie State Cycling Series is a regional competition featuring international professional cyclists racing for the Intelligentsia Cup. The Crystal Lake race is scheduled for July 20.

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