Amgen snowed out, businesses look at the bright side
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif.- Expectations of businesses and fans fell with the snowflakes of the weekend’s storm, but even after the cancellation of the Amgen Tour of California some contended there was still a bright side to just organizing the event.
“It was definitely not a total loss,” said Betty “B” Gorman, president and CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce. “We need to focus on the fact that the community came together and that the North Shore and the South Shore worked together on an event of this magnitude.”
Though tents and parking lots where events were to take place during the race were for the most part empty, some businesses did report higher than average revenue during the normally slow mid-May weekend.
“Despite the cancellation, we saw an incredible boost in traffic and business this weekend and I can only imagine that it would have been greater had the weather cooperated and Echo Pass been open,” said Lauren Lindley, a manager at the Pearl Izumi factory store at the “Y.”
Gorman was surprised at the large amount of positive feedback she heard from businesses at the business expo, she said. But without the crowds of spectators that race-ready weather would’ve brought, the city wasn’t going to reel in as many tourist dollars, she added.
“We’re not going to see the uptick in TOT (transient occupancy tax) and sales tax we hoped,” Gorman said.
Down at the “Y” on Sunday, On Course Events in partnership with the City of South Lake Tahoe’s Parks and Recreation Department set up several wooden jumps and ramps for the BMX demonstration with BMX Olympians Donny Robinson and Mike Day. Though the ramps were never ridden because the wind made jumping the bikes too dangerous, turnout for the event was still in the hundreds, said Lauren Thomaselli, the department’s special events coordinator.
“Honestly, the turnout was still incredible,” Thomaselli said. “My first thought when I saw the weather forecast was, ‘Good, now our crowd might be manageable.”
The mini-bicycle drag races were a big hit, Thomaselli said. More than 50 people of all ages, including the Olympic riders, jumped on the tiny bikes for a head-to-head dash across the parking lot.
“We ended up having the only bike race of the day,” Thomaselli laughed.
Clouds rolled into Emerald Bay on and off, revealing and hiding Fannette Island. Snow came in periodic torrents. Gardnerville resident Jon Wehan arrived there at 6:10 a.m. Sunday morning.
“It kept snowing pretty good until around 8 a.m.,” Wehan said. “After that, it started warming up with the sun coming out and the roads basically melting away. Plows were out in full force so it was down to asphalt really quickly.”
Wehan set up a portable fire pit, his beer coolers and a colorful umbrella. By noon, both sides of the road near the first set of switchbacks were packed. The group around Wehan’s fire had heard the start would be delayed, but they were prepared to stick it out.
“After we heard the race was canceled we were a little surprised because from where we were sitting we thought they could have raced,” Wehan said. “The one thing I realized afterwards, being in the switchbacks, we were sheltered from the wind and there were probably a lot of other places, like Brockway Summit, that were a lot worse.”
Wehan stayed until 3 p.m. before putting out the fire and packing up.
This year’s snowy conditions would not hinder Tahoe’s bid for next year’s race, Andrew Messick, president of AEG sports, said Sunday. Santa Rosa has already secured the overall start for next year’s Tour of California and Tahoe has not announced it will bid for any of the stages yet.