It may be the newest Fourth of July sight in Lawrence: lots and lots of bicycles.
Lawrence tourism leaders won a $13,000 state grant Wednesday to help fund a three-day cycling race expected to attract 800 cyclists — including some professional teams — to the city.
The event — dubbed the Tour of Lawrence — would conduct races downtown and on the Kansas University campus. But most important, officials with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau said, the event would fill hotel rooms, restaurants and stores.
“The Fourth of July weekend is a pretty slow weekend for hotels and downtown businesses,” said Judy Billings, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We thought if we could create something that would bring lots of folks into downtown, that would be a good thing.”
The event would be July 3 through July 5. Billings said her group is working to raise about $60,000 in sponsorship money to ensure the event can happen. She said she hopes to be in a position within the next two weeks to say that the event definitely is going to happen.
Bob Sanner, executive director of the nonprofit Lawrence Sports Corp., said he’s optimistic the event will come together. He said he’s had good contacts with several professional teams interested in coming to Lawrence for the weekend.
The races would be during the same time of the Tour de France race, and several professional teams that have not qualified for that race may be looking for an event to attend.
“Lawrence is a tremendous cycling community,” Sanner said. “There’s some great local support for an event like this.”
The city has been on the cycling map in the past. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the city was host to the U.S. Collegiate Road Cycling Championships. That event was estimated to generate at least $300,000 per year in economic activity for the city.
Sanner said that the Tour of Lawrence could be an even larger boon to the city’s economy because the event will be open to a larger range of people. The event would have a professional division, several amateur divisions and a youth division. It also would consist of three races — a short, uphill street sprint on July 3, a timed race called a criterium in downtown on July 4, and road racing events ranging from 15 to 70 miles on a five-mile course on the Kansas University campus.
Sanner thinks the event has the potential to fill all the hotel rooms in Douglas County.
“And you’re appealing to a group of participants and spectators who have some discretionary income,” Sanner said.
The Sports Corporation received the $13,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce’s travel and tourism division.
The event, if it moves forward, will have to receive a variety of approvals from the City Commission. Billings said she expects the commission to discuss the event in February.