Opinions vary on economic benefit of special events
By Michael Turton
A few weeks from now, organizers will begin planning the 2014 Putnam Cycling Classic, with Putnam County again being the only North American stop on the UCI World Cycling Tour. Last year marked the second time that the race, organized and promoted by Putnam County Tourism, started and finished in Cold Spring. It was also the first time that the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce piggybacked with the race, hosting “Pedal into Spring,” a two-day, weekend festival.
Libby Pataki, Putnam County Tourism Director, said that the Putnam Classic and UCI event are “absolutely” on for 2014; however, it remains to be seen if next year’s race will again start and finish in Cold Spring.
“I’m looking at a lot of options within the county,” she said, adding there is “no guarantee” the race will again be centered in Cold Spring. Pataki said that serious planning would not start until about six months prior to the event. “I’m not wedded to (centering the race in) the west end of the county or the east end.” She did say she is committed to having the race again pass through each town in Putnam County, and that Cold Spring would be part of the route.
An example of cross-promotional options presented was the celebration of Grand Central Station’s 100th anniversary and Brewster’s Founder’s Day which is held in September. Brewster, located on Metro-North’s Harlem Line, is already partnering with the Metro-North Commuter Council to make the Grand Central Station anniversary part of Founder’s Day festivities.
Economic benefit and sponsorships
The race is intended to bring business to Putnam County but in 2012 some Cold Spring merchants complained that closing Main Street actually hurt their business. Organizers responded by keeping Main Street open the following year. Business owners were still split as to the economic benefit of the race. Some said that business improved and welcomed more special events while others said they saw no new business and questioned the value of special events overall.
There were also questions regarding the race’s major sponsor – Ridge Hill, a Westchester shopping, dining, entertainment and residential complex that describes itself as a regional destination. Detractors pointed out that if Ridge Hill’s promotion of the race proved successful as a marketing strategy, it could actually draw business away from Putnam County.
Pataki ardently defends Ridge Hill’s sponsorship.“If I go to an entity outside of Putnam County that is very anxious to promote their new site, and make a proposal … that we can help get them on the map through an international bicycle event, and they jump at the idea, why would I be so stupid as to turn down their money when entities in Putnam County have already been asked, and not donated?” she said in an email to The Paper.
“Events are not free”
“There was some risk,” Pataki said. Part of the risk was the scope of the event. “Events are not free … there’s a need to think big and outside the box in developing tourism.” She said the race was, “A bit … out there in terms of expenses — but they were more than covered.” She estimates expenses totaled $110, 000 in 2013.
When The Paper spoke with her in July, Pataki said sponsorships had totaled about $123,000. “The county actually made money,” she said. Surplus funds cannot be rolled over to help defray costs of the 2014 race but are used for other tourism projects. As of Aug. 14, a final financial statement was not yet available.
The cost of running the Putnam Classic is anything but free. A total of $55,000 was paid to Sparta Cycling Inc. Sparta’s President John Eustice was the primary organizer of the international race. Cold Spring resident Ray Fusco was paid $8,000 to handle local race logistics.
A fee of $15,000 Euros (approximately $16,700 U.S.) went to Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) for sanctioning the race internationally. Bicycling Magazine, billed as the world’s largest cycling magazine with 2 million readers, was paid $10,000 for advertising. Super Race Systems received $4,000 for providing timing services.
While fundraising in 2013 was impressive in offsetting costs, $75,000 came from just two sources – Ridge Hill and an anonymous donor who contributed $25,000 – raising questions as to whether or not sponsorship is sustainable annually. Pataki said that in discussions with Ridge Hill no commitment was made, nor was there a request, for long-term sponsorship.
Pataki believes that the Putnam Cycling Classic is sustainable. Her philosophy is clear when it comes to special events. “I believe in fundraising. We have to have public-private partnerships,” she said. “Events such as this should not be on the backs of taxpayers.”
She admitted fundraising was more difficult in 2013, in part because sponsors such as Central Hudson that had contributed at the $5,000 level in 2012, won’t contribute to the same event in consecutive years. The Putnam County News and Recorder contributed $5,000 in 2013.
The fundraising strategy for 2014? “I don’t want to [go] outside Putnam County for sponsorships,” Pataki said. She said she will begin fundraising much earlier and plans “… a very aggressive campaign in Putnam County.” The campaign will include approaches to a broad cross-section of the business community including banks, energy companies, car dealerships, insurance companies, hospitals, big-box stores and other private enterprises. Pataki also intends to revisit those who contributed in 2012 but deferred in 2013.
Pedal into Spring
Pedal into Spring, which included vendors, live music, storytelling, themed window displays and free public seminars, operated on a relative shoestring compared to the Putnam Cycling Classic. Chamber of Commerce President Debbi Milner said that while expenses totaled $14,652, revenues totaled $10,719.
Sponsorships made up the bulk of revenues and included $5,000 from Putnam County Tourism; $3,000 from Philipstown.info/The Paper; $2,000 from an anonymous donor, $700 from Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill, and $500 from Mid-Hudson Concrete. The Chamber also raised $2,065 from advertising space donated by Philipstown.info on its visitor’s map and from balloon sales. The Chamber also recruited 14 new members as a result of the event.
Opinions could not differ more regarding the economic benefit of the two events than those held by the owners of two Main Street businesses – Frozenberry’s Benny Zaken and Archipelago at Home’s Tim Chevtaikin.
“We were busy … about 10 to 15 percent busier than normal,” Zaken said. “They (special events) should not be just one weekend.” Zaken thinks street vendors should be a regular feature in Cold Spring and that special events should be offered on a consistent, scheduled basis. “That way, people will know what to expect here on weekends.”
Tim Chevtaikin could not disagree more. He said that Archipelago saw no increase in weekend sales and that traffic was less than normal on the day of the bike race. Yet, he had praise for organizers. “It was the best street fair I’ve seen here in 15 years … very well thought out, organization and set up were great.” But he remains a non-believer when it comes to special events. “There’s too much going on — people get distracted from shopping. Street vendors and the village (as a whole) do well — but I don’t,” he said.