By all accounts the recent USA Cycling Championships held August in Greenville, South Carolina was a success. The time trial national championship went to David Zabriskie, who continues his streak of four national time trial jerseys in a row. Greenville resident George Hincapie, with only one teammate as support, took the win for the second time. The morning of the road race, a charity ride was held that benefited The Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Greenville Hospital System Oncology Research Institute. A check for $120,000 was presented after the pro race in front of a cheering crowd. Along the course thousands of fans lined the road. For those unable to attend, the race was broadcast on television nation wide. For the city of Greenville this is one of their biggest national caliber events of the year. However, there is still some political wrangling regarding hotel tax revenue, which is a significant source of income for a city.
GreenvilleOnline.com is reporting that the County Council eliminated all of the $15,000 in proposed funding for the USA Cycling Championships and $5,000 from the BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tournament. Both are ranked “very, very strong tourism generators.” However not all festival funding was cut. The Scottish Games and Freedom Weekend Aloft’s funding tripled. That seems a bit odd. Interestingly Councilman Joe Dill is an honorary board member of the Scottish Games, and like mentioned, saw their funding triple.
At every race whenever the reigning national champion is announced, the city of Greenville, as the host city, is as well. The race weekend brings in fans from around the country. As I walked up and down Paris Mountain the day of the road race I talked to people who had flown in from all four corners of the country. Does the Scottish Games or Freedom Weekend Aloft attract more than just local visitors? Do either of these festivals get national television coverage or national print media coverage that the USA Cycling championships do? When I have attended nationally ranked races in the States or in Europe, Greenville is mentioned as the home of our national championships. My parents, who live in England, knew the race results from the weekend from a BBC sports report. Unfortunately, the results of the caber toss from the Scottish Games were not reported. With this type of publicity the County Council needs to realize how important the championship weekend is to Greenville, economically, as well image wise. I spoke to race officials that told me other cities would love to host the national championships. These competing cities recognize the importance of having the national championships in their towns and the boost in tourism that it would provide. The Tour of Missouri is also facing a tough economic time even as it brought in over 38 million dollars to the state. The governor and lieutant governor have turned that race into a political pissing match. There is one way for Greenville to show their displeasure with the leadership of the council, at the voting booth.
How can, those of us outside of voting districts, make an impact?
I can’t vote in Greenville since I live in Tennessee, but I’m sure that Greenville appreciates the money from the hotel where I stay and the money from the restaurants we frequent while in town for the US Pros. I can’t imagine cutting funding for an event that could potentially have an impact on family fitness when obesity is such an issue today. Not to mention the great events held for families, people with disabilities, and to promote research for health issues. I will be happy to write a letter to the Greenville County Council asking that they reinstate funds!
I’m going to try and find out how non-Greenville residents can influence the County Council. Perhaps something as simple as a letter writing campaign telling them from where you traveled and that you stayed in town spending your hard earned dollars. Bottom line is that’s all that matters to these people. That, and furthering their political campaigns.
I’ll do my best to stay on top of the situation.
There may be more to come out on this. It is true that $15K for US Pro was cut from the hospitality tax, but according to County Council members that was because $50K was allotted from another County source. The Greenville News failed to report that. I am still digging into this, but for now I am giving the Council the benefit of the doubt until I hear all the facts.
Too bad this news spread around the web the day after Greenville received a bronze level “Bicycle Friendly Community” status from the League of American bicyclists. There may be something to this story, but If this turns out to just be a case of irresponsible journalism, I am NOT going to be happy with the Greenville News.
Those of us who have traveled from Knoxville will write a letter… thanks for passing along the info!
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