RAGBRAI falls $25,000 short in Cedar Rapids

Organizers to ask city for hotel-motel tax funds to cover gap

A man stands amongst a large crowd during the Counting Crows concert, during the over night stay for RAGBRAI riders, in
A man stands amongst a large crowd during the Counting Crows concert, during the over night stay for RAGBRAI riders, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, July 26, 2012. (Nikole Hanna/The Gazette)

Organizers of Cedar Rapids' RAGBRAI stopover will ask for $25,000 from the city's hotel-motel tax fund to cover a shortfall from the July 26 event.

"We're just trying to move this forward, because people wanted to know where we stood financially," said Marilee Fowler, president and CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The city had granted organizers $60,000 from the hotel/motel fund as seed money during the event's planning. Fowler said if the city council approves, CVB would repay $35,000, retaining the balance to cover costs.

Fowler said she expects to make an official request of the city council at its Aug. 28 meeting.

Mayor Ron Corbett on Thursday noted that the city brought in more hotel-motel tax revenue in the last year than projected and so has money from that fund to cover the local RAGBRAI committees’ shortfall. Corbett said the event itself likely raised $10,000 in hotel-motel tax revenue from bicyclists staying in the city’s motels.

So the shortfall really is about $15,000, which the city’s hotel-motel fund will cover, the mayor said.

The mayor compared the RAGBRAI event to the annual state girls’ volleyball tournament in Cedar Rapids, which he said the city underwrites to a degree in trade for what he said is the $1.8 million in local economic impact the tournament has each year.

“RAGBRAI was a huge success for Cedar Rapids, for our parks, the downtown, Czech Village, New Bohemia,” Corbett said. “The RAGBRAI riders loved it. It brought a tremendous number of people into our community.”

Events marking RAGRAI's 40th anniversary and the cross-state bike ride's first Cedar Rapids stopover since 1990 included a downtown concert by Counting Crows and live entertainment at three campsites. Ticket sales for the headliners' show fell about 1,000 short of the 8,000 goal, leaving the shortfall, Fowler said.

Fowler said the event's $385,000 total cost was about $15,0000 under early estimates. Major expenses included $195,000 for Counting Crows and local bands that played at the campgrounds, $100,000 for staging, seating, video screens and insurance, $40,000 for police and shuttle service, and $50,000 for signs, fundraising, printing, portable toilets and other campground amenities.

Revenue included$210,000 in cash donations and sponsorships, $50,000 from beverage sales, $75,000 in concert ticket and merchandise sales and $25,000 in vendor fees.

Fowler also estimated organizers received thousands of dollars' worth of donated services from local businesses,  nonprofit agencies and local government. She said 700 local volunteers contributed $43,580 in free labor.

"We all went in this together as a group - the city, the CVB and the (Economic) Alliance," Fowler said. "It really was a community team effort."

Organizers of RAGBRAI's 2011 stop in Coralville estimated that event netted between $10,000 and $20,000 on costs of about $50,000.

8-16-12 Cedar Rapids RAGBRAI Event Recap

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