Some Manayunk bike race stakeholders blame cost of city services for cancellation

Organizers of the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship, which has for the past 28 years annually wound its way through the city, have cancelled this year’s race.

Following the loss of lead sponsor TD Bank, organizers Pro Cycling Tour cited a need for reorganization and said they expect to bring the event back in 2014.

“The race is more than just about cycling,” creator David Chauner said in a statement. “It reflects the spirit and passion of our region through all that have been involved and we are very excited that this adjustment in the calendar will make it even bigger than ever before and sustainable for years to come.”

But officials with the Manayunk Development Corporation, which represents the neighborhood most closely associated with the race, also laid blame at the feet of the city. Mayor Michael Nutter as a part of his first budget in 2008 began holding event organizers responsible for the increased cost of municipal services.

“The last few years, the cost of city services – logistics, barriers, EMTs, everything it takes to put on a bike race – has exploded to the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said MDC director Jane Lipton, who said the amount has more than tripled in the past four to five years.

She hopes a combination of public and private stakeholders will come together and save the race. “I do believe that there are companies in this city that could step up to the plate and form a partnership with the race and form a partnership with the city to get this done,” she said.

But Bruce Cooper, MDC board chairman and owner of Jake and Cooper’s Wine Bar in Manayunk, was less optimistic. “I think, at this point, there’s no negotiating with the city regarding events,” he said. “It wants to be paid what it wants to be paid, and to put that into the same model it’s followed for the last 14 years.”

The city did not immediately return calls seeking comment this afternoon.

Revenue loss not businesses’ biggest fear

Cooper said the race cancellation is more than an economic blow to neighborhood business owners. “It’s a smaller piece of the pie for us in the sense of revenue,” he said. “My bigger concern is the city losing an international event and how you come back. Coming back after losing an event – even for a year – isn’t easy.”

“The Manayunk bike race helped me jump start my business,” said Juliet Sabella, owner of The Wall Cycling Studio, which she named after the infamous bike race climb. “It means more to me and the rest of this town than you could understand.”

“It’s an energy that’s lost more than money,” Cooper agreed.

Race ‘helped put Manayunk on the map’

Advocates credit the Cycling Championship with helping to kick start a neighborhood renaissance nearly three decades ago.

“This bike race was part of what set off the reinvention of Manayunk in 1984, Lipton said. “When a little bike race came to what they called ‘The Manayunk Wall,’ that spark set off a revitalization.”

Cooper recalled that the race “helped put Manayunk on the map a long time ago.”

“I remember coming down 20-some years ago and there were 10 people on one corner watching the race,” he said. “Now you can have 1,000 people on this corner alone.”

Sliver of hope?

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady today scheduled a meeting this Friday with event organizers, MDC stakeholders and city officials in an attempt to broker a deal that will save the race.

“We at MDC greatly appreciate Congressman Brady’s offer of help,” Lipton said. “The Congressman understands the value of civic institutions like the bike race and has a well-earned reputation as someone who can bring all sides together and find a resolution. We’re hopeful that the 2013 bike race can be saved.”

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