KOMU: State Tourism has 'no comment' about Tour of MO funding


KOMU-TV in Columbia covered the Tour of Missouri today.  They are finally giving some public attention to a decision the Missouri Division of Tourism made behind closed doors some months ago--and which the Missouri General Assembly is now poised to reverse:

The Missouri Division of Tourism has decided not to allocate state money to fund the Tour of Missouri in 2010.

The Missouri Appropriations Committee has passed a reduced proposal for one million dollars in state funding to go toward the race. The bill has yet to reach the house.

The Division of Tourism accounted for 40 percent of the race's funding last year, said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

The rest of the funding came from corporate sponsors, but Hugh says that private money tends to be dependent on state money. Without any state funding, Hugh is not sure whether the 2010 race will happen.

The Tour of Missouri has given Missouri an economic boost since its inception in 2007. The 2008 race generated $30 million statewide and last year's race brought in $38 million. . . .

"For a local business like mine, it does help promote cycling, not necessarily the road racing aspect, but it at least gets people outside, getting them out on their bikes and aware of cycling as a sport," Nick Smith, owner of Red Wheel Bike Shop, said. "After the first race started here in town, we came back to the store and lots of customers were coming in excited about watching cyclists and purchasing bikes."

Smith is not sure why the state would not want to back a profitable event like the tour.

"I would assume that a one million dollar investment on a $30 million dollar return would be kind of silly to take away," he said. "In my opinion, we should have three to four of these races if it's going to generate that kind of money."

The Division of Tourism had no comment to make on the funding cut, but a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Economic Development said the State Tourism Commission voted not to allocate state funds for the 2010 fiscal year after the 2009 race this fall because of the already inflated budget.

"I think that having some support from the state is pretty imperative to making this event happen," Stroesser said.

This year's tour, scheduled for August 31-September 6, is not dead yet, though.