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Chad Hodges never had planned a cycling race before the upcoming Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic.
Coordinating a two-day street race that would require the closure of several streets along Automobile Alley and Downtown, the local cycling club member said a little prayer each time he had to make a call.
“I had heard horror stories about people trying to do things in the past, and I was a little nervous,” Hodges says. “From the first email and phone call inquiring about information, people have helped me along the whole way. I don’t think I’ve heard the word ‘no’ one time from anybody involved with the city or Downtown OKC.”
The June 2 date in Automobile Alley and a June 3 date in downtown Moore are one weekend before the annual, nationally known Tulsa Tough race.
Organizers are hoping this schedule will coax top cycling talent from the region to come to Oklahoma sooner.
The race is expected to draw some 600 participants, and the Tulsa Tough racing club will use the event as a tune-up for its own race.
RACE FOR BUSINESS
It’s situations such as these that Sue Hollenbeck loves to see. As the assistant director of sports business development for the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau, it’s her job to bring in more of them.
She says the sporting events with the highest revenues are the Memorial Marathon in April, Women’s College World Series in June and any NCAA event hosted by the city.
“Anything on the river continues to be big, too,” Hollenbeck says. “It’s not huge in room nights, but the PR and international press we get from those is amazing.”
The arrival of the NBA has floated all boats when it comes to attracting sporting events; more people are considering Oklahoma City a sports town.
“I think it’s priceless,” Hollenbeck says.
“I’m sure there’s some sort of formula we could find and put together, but the amount of PR and positive comments and exposure we get from the NBA – specifically, our players – is absolutely priceless.”
WHEELS ARE TURNING
Hodges says things have come together for the Oklahoma City Pro-Am.
“We’ve always wanted to bring a bike race down to Automobile Alley or Bricktown, but we really never had the means to pull one off,” he says. “This year, with SandRidge [Energy] being involved … once we approached them, they were very eager to help out.”
From an organizer’s standpoint, Hodges feels the city is open and accommodating when it comes to sporting events.
“It’s been great to have all these other outlets. That was our pitch initially,” he says. “This is not just a little race. Given an amount of time, it will be huge, with tens of thousands of people watching. It’s really exciting to be part of Oklahoma City’s growth.”
The Sports Business Development team at the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau brought in the following for the calendar year 2011:
NUMBER OF SPORTING EVENTS SPORTS MEETINGS:58
NUMBER OF TOTAL HOTEL ROOMS:91,045
(This does not represent economic impact, which contains a multiplier. These are actual dollars spent.)
–Photo by Mark Hancock