It's looking more and more like the Tour of Missouri is going the way of the Tour of Georgia, the Tour Dupont and the Coors Classic. In a word, extinct.
The continued bad economy and reluctance of any major sponsor to come to the plate have forced the organizers of the week-long stage race to set a deadline to learn whether the race will receive a $1 million infusion from the state.
The chairwoman of the state tourism board, which has funded a portion of the pro cycling race in the past, says it has to spread its $14 million budget across the state and can't commit $1 million to just one event.
The head of Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Foundation is as frustrated as everyone else in trying to get a funding commitment from the state for the fourth Tour of Missouri, scheduled Aug. 31 to Sept. 6 this year. Brent Hugh says at the foundation website:
“This is frankly incredible: After the funding for the 2010 Tour of Missouri has been passed by the Missouri House and Senate–and by all indications will be signed by Governor Nixon–now the Missouri Tourism Commission, an appointed body, is saying they will use their discretion to simply not provide the funding for the 2010 Tour.
“To do so without even meeting with Mike Weiss (Chair of the Board of Tour of Missouri, Inc, and President of the Missouri Bicycle Racing Association), me, and others who are on the Board of the Tour of Missouri and who have been requesting a meeting with the Governor's office for months, is frankly a slap in the face of Missouri bicycling and all we have been working for over the past 15 years.”
Medalist Sports, which handles logistics for the bike race, had set a deadline of Friday to determine whether to go ahead with the bike race. Kathleen Nelson at St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Medalist has “softened” that deadline to give supporters a chance to plead their case to lawmakers.
Some legislators are urging Gov. Nixon to get the tourism board to fund the event. Also a “Ride-In' in support of the Tour of Missouri has been scheduled for noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, in front of the Missouri Capitol building.
After the comments by state tourism chair Marci Bennett, it appears that there's no way the race can go ahead.
In pushing for funding, Medaist Sports points out that the Tour has tightened its belt, asking $1 million from the state this year, compared to $1.5 million in 2009. It's a good investment, tour officials said, considered the $1.5 million funding in 2009 resulted in a $37.5 million return in tourism spending.
At the Tour of Missouri website:
“While we have answered all their questions, provided conclusive data to proceed and state legislatures have spoken, the entities needed to release the funds have blocked the funding allocation. This allocation is necessary to fund this event at a world-class level.
“As event organizers, we have had to set deadlines to move forward on the event, and we are currently upon them. While we are 100% confident we can perform everything within the next four months, including proper activation on behalf of our corporate partners, we feel we are being threatened undeservedly.”
How to help
Tour of Missouri supports can help. Organizers are urging fans to email or call to the director of Tourism, Katie Steele Danner, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (573) 751-4133. Also send a message to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, http://governor.mo.gov/contact, or call (573) 751-3222.
Also, plan on showing up for May 15's “ride-in” in support of the Tour of Missouri.