City Council Considers Supporting 2nd 'Tour de Crystal Lake'

Crystal Lake leaders uncertain whether to support Tour de Crystal Lake for the Prairie State Cycling Series.

Tour de Crystal Lake. Sunday, July 14, 2013.
Tour de Crystal Lake. Sunday, July 14, 2013.
Organizers for the Prairie State Cycling Series are seeking to bring the Tour de Crystal Lake-leg of the bicycle race to the city's downtown streets again this summer.

However, Prairie State's request for $20,000 in funding from the city and lack of spectator turnout at the Tour's inaugural race this past summer has some Crystal Lake leaders questioning whether to support the series.

"The issue I have is that you are a for-profit, and I don't see how you qualify under our own criteria," Councilwoman Cathy Ferguson told race executive director Marco Colbert at the regularly scheduled city council meeting this past Tuesday.

"Hotel/ motel funds can only go to non-for-profit organizations that are 501-C3," Ferguson said. 

Colbert has requested $20,000 from the city's hotel/motel tax fund. His company plans to seek race sponsorships for the event, which is scheduled for Sunday, July 20, in downtown Crystal Lake. 

"Once the expenses of the bike race are covered, if there is an excess in (profits), we would return the money to the city," Colbert told the council.

"If there is excess beyond that, we would donate some money to charity....the long-term goal is to have it totally supported by sponsorship."

Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley said the purpose of the hotel-motel tax funding is to promote tourism in the city.

Last year, Crystal Lake gave $9,000 to the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau from the city's general fund. The visitors bureau used a grant to match the donation, and a total of $18,000 was given to the racing company. 

The visitors bureau has already announced it can't donate the same amount to the race this year.

While many of the council members said they attended and liked last year's race held on Sunday, July 14, 2013, everyone agreed spectator turnout fell far short of expectations. Race promoters had told city leaders and downtown business owners to anticipate high revenues for the day. Read more on that story here.

On top of that, North Williams Street was closed along with portions of Crystal Lake Avenue, Grant Street and Woodstock Street, which limited access to downtown businesses for regular customers.  

Some downtown businesses closed for the day, and other business owners reported they lost considerable sales revenues.

Shepley said race events of this nature often need two or three years to grow. He urged his fellow councilmen to look at the $20,000 as an investment that would bring more money into the city down the road.

"One way or the other, we would not be doing ourselves justice if we do not bring this back for another year," Shepley said. "Year one of a promotion is when you get the operations down. Years two and three are when you start seeing the crowds."

Last year, the city council awarded two-year distributions of its hotel-motel tax funds to several non-profit organizations. Race promoters had approached the city last year after those funds had already been distributed.

City councilman Brett Hopkins announced there are two potential applicants expected to request donations from the city this month. Hopkins and two other council members said they would prefer to consider the three applicants at the same time, and the matter was continued until next month. 

The Prairie State Cycling Series is a 10-day event that runs from July 18 to 27, 2014. One-day legs of the race are held at various cities and towns in the Chicago area and in southern Wisconsin. Similar legs were held in St. Charles and Lake Bluff. 

Unlike distance races, cyclists in this event are striving to clock the fastest times on a short route. The racers complete several laps on that route. 




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