Five Takeaways from the Big Bike Race Figures

Richmond saw some solid revenue numbers, but much data is missing.

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Calculating the economic benefits from such events as the UCI Road World Championships, held in Richmond this September, has always been a dicey business.

More light was shed on the issue today at a Jefferson Hotel press conference.

There’s no question the nine-day races put the city in a positive light around the world. But figuring how many people actually showed up, how much they spent and what the revenues were is difficult.

The benchmark is a 2012 study compiled by Chmura Economics & Analytics, which has also conducted an early post-mortem two and a half months after the event.

Here are a few takeaways:

1. Total spending in the state looks better than predicted. The new figures are $169.8 million. In 2012, Chmura predicted $129.2 million in total spending.

2. Ditto for tax revenues. The new figures are $4.9 million in extra regional tax revenues and $3 million in the state. It’s unclear if the two figures are separate, but either way, they're better than the 2012 estimate of $3.8 million.

3. How many attended? This is where it gets messy. For months, UCI promoters estimated that the race would draw 450,000 “spectators.” Then they said there were 640,000 “spectators.” The newest figures find there were 161,000 people who attended the event. What’s the difference? Promoters say the larger figures involved people who watched the races on any specific day. If they watched for three days, they are counted three times. It’s like analyzing a city’s labor force of 100,000 people, but claiming that it’s really 500,000 because they work five days a week.

4. The out-of-town draw seems more modest than predicted. Fans came from 29 countries, led by Belgium, Canada, England, the Netherlands and Denmark. They also came from 34 states, led by Maryland and North Carolina. Hard figures haven’t been released, but back in 2012, Chmura pushed the idea that the national draw zone is huge -- more than 115 million people live within 500 miles of Richmond. The latest figures show that only a tiny part of this big number seems to have dropped by for the races.

5. The food equation. Figures don’t seem to be available yet on how much money in-town restaurants and other businesses lost, with local people avoiding the hype about teeming crowds of spectators.

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