Turns out Lawrence is a hot sports town, even when Kansas University's not on the football field or James Naismith Court at Allen Fieldhouse.
Hundreds of cyclists are set to ride into Lawrence in May for the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, one of several sporting events expected to help fill hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
The cycling event is expected to draw about 400 college riders and an additional 200 juniors, classified as riders under 18 years old. Add in the accompanying crowds of up to 3,000 spectators and supporters, and Lawrence is poised to welcome new out-of-town spending just as KU students pack up for the summer.
Justin Rogers, national event manager for Colorado-based USA Cycling, will make the formal announcement this afternoon in Lawrence.
"We're just trying to complement hotels with nonuniversity functions," said Bob Sanner, executive director of the Lawrence Sports Corp., a division of the Lawrence Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Lawrence is just very unique, and people enjoy coming here. They look for an excuse to come to or visit Lawrence, and we're trying to provide that."
The cycling event is set for May 13-15, a week before KU commencement, and will be back each year through 2007, with options for two more. Other events scheduled this year:
- American Fastpitch Assn. National Fastpitch Championships, July 18-24. Last year's event drew 3,800 visitors who spent $1 million on hotels, gasoline, food, souvenirs and other goods and services in town, said Judy Billings, senior vice president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
- Midwest Mayhem Triathlon, July 24. The event -- successor to the Lawrence Memorial Hospital Triathlon -- will be expected to draw up to 600 participants and 900 others to Lone Star Lake.
- Lawrence Futures Golf Classic, May 6-8, Eagle Bend Golf Course. The event will feature a $70,000 purse, 144 players from as many as 27 countries and another 500 out-of-towners. Expected "new money" pouring into Lawrence: $250,000 to $400,000, said Tracy Kerdyk, the tour's vice president for business development.
The Lawrence Sports Corp. continues its search for more events and currently is working on attracting a national triathlon to town, one so large that Lone Star Lake might not be big enough to handle all the swimmers.
The event would draw up to 3,000 spectators and another 1,500 participants, with the winners qualifying for Ironman triathlons in Hawaii.
"When you're in competition for the Final Four or the Super Bowl, each community identifies where they feel their niche market is, and then you go after those events," Sanner said.