After years of declining attendance, organizers of the Quad Cities Criterium hope to revitalize the annual Memorial Day bicycle races and attract more sponsors by moving it from downtown Rock Island to the Village of East Davenport.
The move, even before it becomes official, is attracting interest from potential sponsors, according to John Harrington, president of the Quad Cities Bicycle Club, which organizes the race. He declined to name the potential sponsors.
Race director Tom Schuler on Tuesday said the hills on the proposed Davenport course would make the race more challenging for riders and should mean more riders and spectators.
The 48-year-old race reached its zenith of popularity during its long run in the Old Towne section of Moline, In the 1990s, the race regularly attracted crowds of between 10,000 and 20,000 spectators as well as 650 or more riders.
The number of riders has held fairly steady, but attendance has dropped off after the event moved to downtown Rock Island in 1997. The Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau said around 2,000 people attended the race in 2013, about average for the last 10 years .
The prize fund also has shrunk, from $21,500 in 1992 to about $12,000. Mr. Harringon declined to discuss specific financial details about the race.
City officials in Rock Island said they only became aware the criterium could be moving across the river in the last few days. Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley said Thursday that he still had not given up hope that the race would stay in The District.
"We'll take a look at whatever they want and, if it's feasible, we'll do it," the mayor said. "But from what I've heard, they want a course with more hills and we can't build hills."
"If they do go, we'll immediately start working on getting another event to replace it," Mayor Pauley said.
Davenport officials said they made no effort to lure the race across the river. Davenport Ald. Gene Meeker, At-Large, said the city is excited about the bicycle race coming to East Davenport, noting it was bicycle club that approached the city.
"We did not try and entice them to come," Ald. Meeker said. "They initiated the action to come to Davenport. We extended a hand to assist where we could. It's not as if the city of Davenport is trying to steal something from Rock Island.
"It's a different route. It's something new, and it's something different to excited people," he said. "We're glad to have them and we will work with them."
Paul Schnell, vice president of the Village of East Davenport, said the bicycle club scoped out the course and the area.
"They came to us thinking about relocating the race," Mr. Schnell said. "They mentioned (the) attractiveness of the hills and the challenges of the race."
Mr. Schnell said there are plans to make sure residents along the proposed three-quarter mile course will be able to get to and from their homes on race day. He said the village will work with police and fire officials and have ongoing communication with residents. Mr. Schuler said parking should not be a deterrent. He said there are two parking lots along River Drive that could be used.
"People understand, if you're going to a densely populated community, they may have to park a few blocks away," Mr. Schuler said. "It's a healthy lifestyle event. We will encourage people to ride their bicycles. That's a nice option to come in on the bike path."
The possible move became public Wednesday night when organizers appeared before the Davenport City Council's committee of the whole meeting seeking permission for street closures to accommodate the race. Final action on the request is expected Feb. 26.
DAVENPORT -- After 48 years in the Illinois Quad-Cities, the Quad Cities Criterium bicycle race may be riding into the Village of East Davenport this Memorial Day.
During Wednesday's Davenport committee of the whole meeting, Tom Schuler, race director for Quad Cities Criterium, told city council members the challenges of a new course in the Village of East Davenport should bring new excitement to the race.
The QCC is the second-longest continuously running bicycle race in the United States, Mr. Schuler said. The race is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.
The Davenport City Council could vote on final approval of the race at next Wednesday's council meeting.
When contacted Wednesday night, Rock Island Mayor Dennis Pauley said he could not comment on the race. Mayor Pauley said the city was in the middle of negotiations with Criterium officials.
The race has been held in The District of downtown Rock Island for about 15 years, Mr. Schuler said. The race brings competitors from around the globe. In 2013, there was $12,125 in prizes in 14 competitive divisions.
Outside council chambers Wednesday, Mr. Schuler said, "One thing cyclists are always looking for is a challenging course. Hills are one thing they look for, believe it or not. Cyclists want the pain of the hills."
The proposed start/finish is in the heart of the village's business district on 11th Street. The course then would travel into the hills of McClellan Heights before plunging back down 12th Street and back to the start/finish for a total course distance of three-quarters of a mile.
Mr. Schuler said it will be a very tough and exciting course.
The QCC is owned by the Quad Cities Bicycle Club. Before Rock Island, the race had been held in Moline.
Mr. Schulder said District officials in Rock Island have been understanding.
"We met with The District early and told them we were considering other options, and they were very supportive," he said. "You know, the events business is an ever-changing business."
Mr. Schuler said each year brings in about 600 participants. The race is on Memorial Day and part of a full weekend of bicycle races in Burlington, Muscatine and the Quad-Cities.
Mr. Schuler said besides a challenging course, the residential component in East Davenport will add to the event.
"The economic impact is not only for the village, but for the whole Quad-Cities," Mr. Schuler said. "Also, it's not a bad situation that the Village of East Davenport has a central downtown area that frames the finish line.
"That's a very important factor in creating a high-energy event. There are lots of bars and restaurants and other specialty retailers that can benefit."
Paul Schnell, vice president of the Village of East Davenport, said, "The village is pleased to have such a quality event like the Criterium considering locating here."
In other business, the average quarterly sanitary sewer bill for a Davenport resident will increase by about $22 in the next two years.
Council members moved a first consideration of an ordinance to increase city residential and commercial sanitary sewer rates. The rate increases will go before the city council for second and third considerations for final approval.
The rate increases will go into effect in fiscal year 2015, which starts July 1, 2014. City finance director Brandon Wright said there will be a 13 percent increase in rates for both fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
He said an average residential quarterly bill is $78.88 today. That average quarterly bill will increase to $89.03 in 2015 and $100.52 in 2016.
Quarterly commercial bills also will increase.
The increases are needed to fund an estimated $180 million in capital improvement projects in the next 20 years.
The projects include investigations into the city's sanitary sewer system, rehabilitation and replacement to reduce inflow and infiltration of stormwater, improvements to the city's water pollution control plant and compliance to more stringent Environmental Protection Agency and Iowa Department of Natural Resources regulations.
Mr. Wright said the city could face extensive fines without the work done to the city's sewer infrastructure.
Without the work, Mr. Wright said the state could say "we (Davenport) cannot operate a water pollution control plant anymore. There would be huge fines."
He said the city signed on to a consent order with the IDNR in late 2013, agreeing to rectify the problems. Mayor Gluba said Wednesday the sewer challenges are common among other Iowa cities, including Des Moines, which he said is looking at nearly a quarter billion dollars needed in improvements.
"We have so much storm water infiltration into our sanitary sewer system," Mr. Wright said. "The primary reason for sewer backup is due to inflow and infiltration."
Mayor Gluba said the rate increase will not affect customers who already are exempt from sewer fees. The eligibility guidelines include those customers age 65 and older and people with disabilities who have an income level below $21,698.