The Tour of Missouri stage race will likely be cancelled this year due the lack of a $1 million USD in funding from State Governor Jay Nixon and the Missouri Tourism Commission. Event organiser Medalist Sports have chosen to withdraw from the race, slated to take place from August 31 to September 6.
"Yes, we have pulled out of the effort," confirmed Chris Aronhalt, Managing Partner of Medalist Sports. "Clearly the Governor is not supportive, which means the Tour will not be successful. In our opinion the Tour will be cancelled because you don’t expect a change of heart from the Governor. We are disappointed yet grateful for the opportunity and proud of our results.
"The success of the Tour of Missouri the past three years has been a result of the public-private partnerships, thanks in part to the initiative of the State," he said. "The leadership and support unfortunately appears to no longer exist, which is an integral element of a successful event of this nature. Of course we are very disappointed but we are also proud of the Tour’s meteoric rise in the sports world, as well as grateful for the long lasting relationships made along the way."
According to the board of directors of Tour of Missouri Inc., the race will be officially cancelled should earmarked funds not be released by Tourism and the Governor.
Medalist Sports and Tour of Missouri Inc. have fought a seven month battle over the funding with Governor Nixon and the Missouri Tourism Commission, despite funds being specifically set aside for the Tour of Missouri in a bi-partisan state senate and house approval, all in favor of funding the race.
"This may be a win for the Missouri Tourism Commission and the Governor, but a huge loss for the state of Missouri and its citizens," said Mike Weiss, chairman of the Tour of Missouri Inc. "It has been an insanely complicated battle for something so beneficial, and it has left all of us absolutely baffled."
Medalist Sports ran into a similar problem last year when a large portion of the state funding for the race froze right before the start of the seven-day event. The funding came through in the final hour. The race costs roughly $3.3 million to run and cannot continue without the $1 million that annually comes from the State of Missouri.
"What has been lost in the mix is whether this money is better spent on things like print ads or a multi-dimensional approach that garners regional and international publicity for our state," Weiss said. "The return on investment is evident but we haven’t been able to plead our case to the Governor because he won’t take our meetings despite all the public support."
The Tour of Missouri was scheduled to embark on its fourth edition this year. It started in 2007 and has routed to more than 25 cities over the course of the past three years. Former winners include George Hincapie (BMC Racing), Christian Vande Velde and teammate Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions).
"It seems only rationale that you can’t purchase the type of media, along with goodwill that the Tour of Missouri brings to a state," Weiss said. "The event has been much, much more than a ‘bike race’, bringing cities together to be showcased to the world. It drove industry and preached health and wellness. It was really multi-dimensional. The fact that the Governor and head of Tourism wouldn’t even take a meeting with our team to discuss this event and the reason to withhold earmarked funding, provides insight into reasons that go beyond value placements."
According to a recent press release some of the event’s benefits included a direct economic impact of more than $80 million over three years, attracted one and half million spectators, an estimated $38 million in tax revenue, telecast internationally to viewers in 173 countries, daily telecasts as a bi-lateral agreement with both Versus and Fox Sports Midwest and Fox Sports Kansas City.
Weiss conceded should Tourism not have a last minute change of heart, or a corporate partner step in, the event will be history. "Unfortunately, it is proven that once these events are gone, they don’t come back," he said.