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Escondido first hosted the finish of the Amgen Tour of California in 2009. The world’s best cyclists competed over local terrain, finishing with a sharp left turn from Escondido Boulevard onto Grand Avenue and ending with a 200-meter sprint.

About 40,000 spectators jammed the streets for a day of racing and partying. The cost to the city was about $80,000 but was fully reimbursed with sponsorships by local businesses.

Over the next few years, Escondido bid to host subsequent stages of the tour but it wasn’t until 2013 that another opportunity arose. On August 8, 2012, city staff presented to the city council a cost estimate of $475,000, based on their analysis and the experience of the City of Santa Rosa, which has hosted numerous tour starts.

Because the previous 2009 tour stage cost Escondido $80,000 but was reimbursed, optimism was high to recoup 2013 costs in the same manner. Escondido Chamber of Commerce representatives and four of the five council members enthusiastically endorsed the financial viability of the project; councilmember Olga Diaz expressed serious doubts.

After the weekend of race events this past May, Suzanne Schaffner, owner of EscoGelato, a downtown business, said, “That Sunday was very hot, which discouraged business, but it was great for creating excitement downtown…. There wasn’t enough business for me. I made lots of coffee and sandwiches, but business was not there; I’d rather see more funding for the farmers’ market.”

At the Escondido City Council meeting on August 14, Joyce Masterson, city director of economic development and community relations, presented the financial particulars of the Amgen event.

Excluding non-contract expense reimbursements, the race and surrounding events cost the city approximately $500,000, of which they were reimbursed $124,000 from sponsorships, cash sales, and the Rancho Bernardo Inn. The total cost to the city was about $372,000 and came out of the city’s general fund.

Due to the lack of time to raise funds, lack of support from neighboring communities, and contract restrictions, the funds raised fell short of expectations.

AEG, a sponsor of the tour, invited the city to bid on hosting a stage of 2014’s race. The estimated cost would be between $125,000 and $320,000, depending on the stage options chosen.

At the mid-August council meeting, mayor Sam Abed summarized the consensus of the city council: “We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on community events — the Jaycee Christmas parade is one of them, the July Fourth celebration is another, and also we fund the downtown ‘Cruising Grand.’”

Abed continued, “I do agree the [2013] cost was more than expected. It has been a great event to showcase our downtown to the whole world, over 122 countries, and was great exposure for Escondido. I agree we skip a year or so and go back and have a more affordable stage finish or start.”

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