Until the event is over, leaders won't be able to quantify the economic impact of the USA Cycling Professional Championships, which will be in the Scenic City this weekend. But downtown restaurant operators are staffing heavily for the weekend, and people who wouldn't have otherwise made the trip to Chattanooga this weekend are coming to town.
"[I have] family coming in from Atlanta specifically for it," Chattanooga resident Ryan Russell said via Twitter Thursday. "[They] probably would've gone to the beach otherwise."
The Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road and Time Trial National Championships will bring some of the country’s top cyclists to the city, as well as tens of thousands of visitors and countless tourism dollars.
When leaders announced last May that the Volkswagen USA national cycling championship would come to Chattanooga, they said that the event routinely draws nearly 50,000 spectators and results in more than $4 million in publicity value.
The following roads will be closed Monday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
—Southbound side of Veterans Bridge
—Georgia Avenue from Veterans Bridge to M.L. King Boulevard
—Vine Street from Georgia Avenue to Douglas Street
—500 block of Douglas Street
—East Fifth Street from Douglas Street to Palmetto Street
—Palmetto Street from East Fifth Street to McCallie Avenue
—McCallie Avenue/Seventh Street from Broad Street to Palmetto Street
—Market Street from Frazier Avenue to East 12th Street
—East 12th Street between Market Street and Broad Street
—800 Cherry Street
—M.L. King Boulevard between Georgia Avenue and Broad Street
—Broad Street from McCallie Avenue to Cummings Highway
—Cummings Highway from Browns Ferry Road to 2000 east of Alford Hill Drive
—Ochs Highway and Scenic Highway
—There will be two-way traffic across Veterans Bridge in the northbound lanes, on Vine Street from Central Avenue to Palmetto Street, and on Broad Street from 20th Street to Charger Drive.
But Bob Doak, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said no one knows yet exactly how many people will be here.
Memorial Day is typically a busy time for tourism in Chattanooga, and with part of the cycling championship on Monday, leaders think people will be staying around longer than they usually do, Doak said.
"Typically, [hotel] occupancy is low Monday night," he said. "Our hope is that we do pick up some rooms Monday night."
As of Thursday afternoon, Doak said he thought there was still some room availability in downtown hotels.
Mike Monen—who owns Urban Stack, Taco Mamacita, Community Pie, and Milk and Honey with his wife, Taylor—said his crews will be prepared for busier shifts over the weekend, especially Sunday, which typically wouldn't be as busy.
But this weekend, they will prepare for it like it's a Friday or Saturday night, he said.
"There's always a little bit of fear and a little bit of the unknown going into these events, but we're super-excited about the race," he said. "We think Miller Plaza and the City Center in general will be a great place to watch the race."
Owner of downtown's Fork & Pie Bar Mike Robinson said he and his staff look forward to special events, such as the cycling championship.
"We have worked with the event planners to offer discounts to patrons attending and to show our support of major downtown events," he said in a prepared statement.
Jack Howland, who races with Village Volkswagen of Chattanooga's Elite Cycling Team and who does public relations for the team, said via email that cyclists love to eat and that Chattanooga has an array of options to offer.
He anticipates lots of money being spent downtown.
"The U.S. pro championships coming to Chattanooga is an important and unique opportunity for the city to showcase the diverse and sometimes eclectic range of restaurants and businesses for which Chattanooga is known," he said. "I think people who may have never been here before will be blown away by it."
The Super Bowl of cycling
This event is essentially "the Super Bowl for U.S. cycling," Howland also said.
For years, the event was held in Philadelphia; and then, it moved to Greenville, S.C.
"For it to be held in Chattanooga means a ton for the city," Howland said. "I feel it shows a recognition that Chattanooga is one of the premier 'small-town' cities in the Southeast worthy and capable of hosting the events.
"Basically, this means that thousands upon thousands of spectators will descend upon Chattanooga for the weekend," Howland continued. "Not to mention that there will be roughly 150 male racers and probably 100 female racers. Also, this is the first year that Volkswagen has sponsored the event, so for it to be held in Chattanooga sort of makes sense."
It's also the first time in the event's 29-year history that women will compete for professional national titles.
This year’s race brings the inaugural Women’s Professional Road Race and Time Trial National Championships.
The time trial course will be near the Volkswagen factory. Participants will complete two out-and-back runs of 9.5 miles each for a total of 19 miles.
The road races will be downtown and will include a difficult climb up Lookout Mountain. Riders will then descend on Scenic Highway to return to downtown via Broad Street.
The course will cross Market Street and Veterans Bridge each lap, and spectators will see the riders cross the start/finish line 11 times during the men’s race and eight times during the women’s race.
The time trial on Saturday, May 25 and road race on Monday, May 27 will be carried live online and on mobile devices by Tour Tracker.
The last two hours of the men’s road race will be broadcast live on Universal Sports beginning at 4 p.m. on Monday, and there will be a recap show broadcast by NBC Sports on Sunday, June 2 at 1 p.m. EDT.
"The fact that it will be shown on television is a huge opportunity to showcase the natural beauty of the Chattanooga area, but also the revitalized beauty and rebirth of the actual city of Chattanooga," Howland said. "There will be plenty of opportunities for people to see the city, both in person [and] from their televisions and computers from all over the world."
Chattanooga resident Mike Kelley said he plans to avoid downtown because the traffic is inconvenient, and officials said there will be several road closures throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, Hickory Valley Road between Highway 58 and Bonny Oaks Drive will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the event. Detours will be posted.
Officials said that parking will be strictly enforced and that vehicles parked illegally will be towed.
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