KYTV: Budget cut could cancel Tour of Missouri

By David Catanese, KY3 Political Reporter
SPRINGFIELD -- Missouri's big bike race could be in peril due to a recommended cut by Governor Jay Nixon.

The 3rd Annual Tour of Missouri is in danger of being cancelled just three months before the start date. Now tourism advocates are gearing up to save it.

On Friday, the state's tourism commission signaled it wants the race to go on and questioned if the Governor has the right to restrict how it spends its money. Some fear if the race isn't saved this year, it may not be back again.

It's been billed as the largest sporting event in Missouri, attracting more than 400,000 spectators for a race that features international cyclists. But the bike race has turned into a political football between the Democratic Governor and Republican Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder.

Gov. Nixon has frozen $1.5 million dollars in state tourism funds, or about 40 percent of the race's total funding.

"I do note that in these challenging budget times we have to make some difficult decisions," Nixon said in Springfield Thursday, in a vague reference to funding for the Tour.

But to Kinder, who brought the Tour to Missouri and the Ozarks, it's an investment worth $30 million dollars of economic activity to the state. Kinder is arguing that pulling the plug just months before the September race would ruin the state's tourism reputation and cost money.

"It doesn't seem to me to be a good business practice to incur all kinds of lawsuits will result from breach of contract when you do it inside 60 days before the start of the race," Kinder told KMOX radio in St. Louis Thursday.

The overall economic impact of the Tour has been questioned by skeptics who believe the $30 million dollar boom is widely inflated.

The economic contribution of the race to the state may be impossible to completely quantify.
But Rusty Worley, of the Urban Districts Alliance, thinks a cancellation this year could jeopardize future races in Missouri.

"Any time an event falls off the schedule for whatever reason it leaves somewhat in doubt, as to someone else might pick it up," said Worley, who helped organize Springfield's leg of the 2008 race.

Kinder's team is ramping up pressure to save the tour, encouraging phone calls to the Governor's office and using Twitter to rally support for their cause.

But in the end, the final leg of this race may be determined by a Governor who ribbed the event during a campaign stop last year -- on the very day the race came through Springfield.

"Thank you . . . 75 people on a beautiful day that could be out watching Belgians ride bicycles in your town . . . are here," Nixon said to laughs to conclude his remarks at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

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