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Tour of Missouri still in limbo

The 2007 Tour of Missouri
(photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI)
The 2007 Tour of Missouri

By Rachel Lippmann

St. Louis – The company that manages the Tour of Missouri has slightly relaxed a deadline for the state to release $1 million in funds for the 2010 race.

Medalist Sports had originally given Tour of Missouri, Inc. and the state Tourism Commission until Friday to secure the $1 million. Company officials said on a conference call on Friday they can wait until after the Tour of California, which runs May 16th through May 23rd, before deciding.

Lawmakers did not specifically allocate funding for the race in the 2011 budget approved last week, but Tour of Missouri chairman Mike Weiss said Friday it was clear from discussions that they felt the Tourism Commission should do so.

"The democratic process has sort of earned this event an appropriation based on its merit," Weiss said. The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committee sent a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday expressing the same sentiment (Read the letter here.)

Tourism officials have said that $1 million is too much money for a single event in a tough budget year, an excuse Democratic Representative Tom McDonald of Independence doesn't buy.

"Everyone knows the situation with the state budget," McDonald said. "Tourism suffered as badly as anyone in their budget cuts, but we're holding 17 communities at bay until we decide how we're going to settle this out." Economic benefit surveys done during the race calculated overall impact at $38 million.

The race remains on international cycling calendars, said Medalist Sports managing partner Chris Aronhalt, but Medalist will not start negotiations with teams and corporate sponsors until the state money is in place.

"Events of this nature, once they are canceled, it's almost impossible to resurrect the magic and the perfect storm that has happened the first three years," Aronhalt said. He said cycling superstar Lance Armstrong contacted Gov. Nixon asking for the state funding, and added that the Tour de France receives large public subsidies every year.

This is the second year that Tour of Missouri funding has remained up in the air until the last minute. It is a pet project of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is widely viewed as a likely challenger to Gov. Nixon in 2012, and many supporters believe politics are playing a large role in the funding dispute.