Cycling at the forefront of Fayetteville tourism grant discussion for 2020

Joe Martin Stage Race / Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission members budgeted $120,000 to help fund a variety of festivities and projects in 2020, including over $25,000 for cycling-related events.

The commission for years has granted money to groups needing financial help with promoting longstanding events or starting new events. Most of the group’s revenue comes from its half of the city’s 2% hotel, motel and restaurant (HMR) sales tax. The city’s parks department collects the other half.

In recent years, a committee led by Experience Fayetteville CEO Molly Rawn has used a defined rubric to come up with recommended award amounts for those who apply for help. Applications are rated on organizational capacity, administrative experience, advertising and promotional plans, and potential sales tax impact.

While the commission has the final say over grant amounts, commission chair Matthew Petty has asked the group to take a “light touch” approach when considering the committee’s recommendations.

“I say that in the interest of respect for all the work that’s gone into these recommendations,” Petty said. “They are scored objectively.”

Petty also reminded the members that the grant funds make up a very small portion of the commission’s $5.3 million budget for the year.

Rawn said she wonders if the commission should completely revamp the way it handles grant requests. As it stands, applications are submitted against a deadline and the committee then does its best to vet the applicant before making a recommendation to the commission at its next meeting.

Ruth Winder dominated the 2017 Joe Martin Stage Race, winning the Sunday criterium to finish with three out of four stage wins and the overall victory.

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

She said sometimes organizers have great ideas that are rejected because they are planned on competing dates or for other reasons that might could be remedied if there was more time to work with Experience Fayetteville to make changes that could increase the event’s chances of success.

“I think not being up against a deadline might allow us to do that,” Rawn said.

Petty agreed, and said as chair, he’s encouraged Rawn to propose anything that she thinks could improve the process.

He told the commission to expect to see something brought forward in the near future.

“Whether it’s to move to staff-only approvals, or rolling application cycles, or any other tweaks and changes,” Petty said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a proposal that takes the commission’s direct involvement out of it.”

The commission voted unanimously to approve staff’s recommendations for grant funds, which only included $105,000 of the overall $120,000 budget for this year.

Rawn said the group could do whatever it wanted with the additional $15,000, but she suggested using the money to help with the annual Joe Martin Stage Race.

The event, organized by local company All Sports Productions, is one of the longest, continually held professional cycling races in the United States, and typically includes over 750 athletes from 24 countries.

The commission has been an on-and-off sponsor of the event to varying degrees for several years. The group granted no money to the race in 2019, but partnered with the state to help sponsor the event in 2018.

Rawn said she’d heard from organizer Bruce Dunn that the race was in danger of not happening this year without securing additional funding. While Dunn did not apply for a grant for the race, Rawn said she and her staff discussed the event and decided to recommended the commission step in and help.

“We see a lot of value in supporting this type of event,” said Brannon Pack, cycling coordinator for Experience Fayetteville.

Pack said data shows that the event has at least a $500,000 economic impact each year, and that the tourism bureau continually leverages the race when promoting the city to the cycling community.

While cities like Bentonville and Bella Vista have in recent years seen an uptick in support for mountain bike-related infrastructure and events, Fayetteville has positioned itself as a road cycling destination.

The pro women’s field climbs Spring Street during stage one of the 2019 Joe Martin Stage Race en route to the finish line atop Mount Sequoyah

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

As part of that effort, the bureau last year convinced professional cycling team Hagens Berman Axeon, led by Belgian former pro bike racer Axel Merckx, to hold its annual training camp in Fayetteville.

Pack said if the commission agreed to help the stage race, it should expect the bureau to receive more exposure this year. For example, the fourth stage of the race would become known as the Experience Fayetteville Criterium. The fourth and final stage is easily the most exciting day to take in the race, as both amateurs and pros race multiple loops around Downtown Fayetteville in hopes of holding or taking an advantage to win the overall event. The racing action is always fast and furious with riders hitting speeds of over 35 miles per hour while riding within inches of each other through 90-degree turns.

“It’s the stage that happens in our downtown, on our streets, and brings people to our retail establishments and restaurants,” Pack said.

Rawn agreed, and said she’ll likely recommend funding of the event annually moving forward in order to ensure the race’s continuous success.

“I think it would be good for us to do,” said Rawn. “I’m not asking you to commit to multiple years, but I don’t want to make it sound like this is a one-year ask.”

The group voted unanimously to approve the recommendation.

Dunn’s All Sports Productions will also receive $10,000 will help fund a total of eight events – some that include cycling – including the Iron Pig Festival, Fayetteville Half Marathon, Chinkapin Hollow Gravel Grinder, Ozark Valley Triathlon, Joe Martin Gran Fondo, Lewis & Clark Ozark Adventure Dash & Urban Adventure Ride, and the R.A.P.T.O.R. Gravel Grinder and Trail Run.

Another cycling-related grant went to Breakaway Cycling, a local women’s and youth road racing development team. The team operates the annual Highway 71 Pastry Tour, previously known as the Highway 71 Classic. The event features multiple road bike routes along scenic Highway 71, and raises money for Breakaway’s programming that aims to get more kids and women on bikes. Breakaway will receive $10,000 for the 2020 event.

A full list of grant awards is available below.

2020 A&P Funding Awards

3×3 Live Soccer3×3 Live Soccer Tournament$1,750
All Sports ProductionsMultiple events$10,000
Arkansas Game & Fish CommissionNational Bobwhite Technical Committee Meeting$2,000
BikeNWAOpen Streets$1,750
Bikes, Blues and BBQRally guide printing$3,500
Botanical Garden of the OzarksEarth Day and International Festival$5,100
Breakaway Cycling TeamHighway 71 Pastry Tour$10,000
Community Creative Center2020 Marketing and Promotion$5,000
Fayetteville Youth Baseball2020 youth tournaments$15,000
Fenix GalleryArte y Naturaleza$1,000
Hogeye EventsRazor Run$3,100
Joe Martin Stage Race2020 event$15,000
Mixology MattersPagnozzi Parker Charity Putt-Putt$500
MOD EntertainmentFayetteville Comic Show$2,500
NWA EqualityNWA Pride Weekend$11,000
NWA Tennis ProductionsUSTA Pro Tennis$10,000
Open Mouth ReadingOpen Mouth Poetry Retreat$1,000
Ozark Regional PromotionsWashington County Fall Craft Festival$3,500
The Spark FoundationNutty Runner 5K & Hero Half Marathon$5,300
Trail Therapy, LLC5 Point Film Festival$2,000
Walton Arts CenterArtosphere Festival$5,000
Wizard Way of the Ozarks2020 event$6,000