Board seeks answers about cycling event
The UCI World Road Cycling Championships will take place in the Richmond region three years from this week, but Henrico County officials need more information before formally committing to climb aboard for the ride.
Officials from Richmond 2015 – the nonprofit organization that will host the nine-day international event – asked Henrico’s Board of Supervisors during a Sept. 11 work session to contribute a total of $1.4 million to the championships during the next three years. But supervisors and County Manager Virgil Hazelett, while pledging support for the event in general terms, bristled at the request because it lacked the specifics they were expecting.
“It is clear to me that we do not have sufficient information,” Hazelett said. “My main concern is the cost. I don’t have a comfort level yet in what’s going to happen.”
Richmond 2015 has established a budget of $21.4 million, its CEO, William Flohr, told the board. The City of Richmond has committed a $2 million contribution, he said, and presentations to officials in Hanover and Chesterfield counties followed the visit to Henrico. The organization arrived at its $1.4 million request of Henrico by following the regional funding format that was used for the Greater Richmond Convention Center, to which Richmond contributed 50 percent, Henrico 35 percent, Chesterfield 13 percent and Hanover 2 percent.
Board ‘disappointed’ in approach
But it was clear during last week’s work session that at least some county officials felt slighted by the organization’s decision to approach them now to assist with an event that may have quickly outgrown its original scope – and by the implication among some in the public that the county was not being a regional partner.
During a steady and pointed line of questioning, Brookland District Supervisor and board chairman Dick Glover expressed as much, suggesting that Richmond 2015 officials had dropped the ball by waiting more than 18 months to meet with the full Henrico board.
He implied that if the organization had involved Henrico from the beginning (in late 2010), the county would have felt more like a true partner and less like a bank account.
“I am very disappointed that this is almost two years after [the process began] that the Board of Supervisors of Henrico County has been approached,” Glover said. “I feel like you’ve left us out of the picture, and now you’re coming to us with not enough information.”
Varina District Supervisor Tyrone Nelson was similarly unimpressed.
“You came to us and gave us nothing today,” Nelson told the organization’s contingent. “I think it’s a healthy promotion for our region, but you’re asking us to spend a million and a half dollars that are not in our budget. We each have capital improvement projects [awaiting funding] in our districts, and I’ve got people in my district ready to shoot me because we don’t have a new school yet.”
Nelson also suggested that if the county were to donate the requested $1.4 million, it should receive more than just one of the 12 races scheduled for the nine-day event – particularly if Richmond’s $2 million donation is enough to earn it nine races. (Hanover and Chesterfield also would receive one race each by contributing to the event, Richmond 2015 organizers said.)
Flohr, who joined Richmond 2015 in April, conceded that the organization might have done some things differently before his arrival, in retrospect.
“It perhaps should have been a regional effort,” he said, “and we’re trying to make it into a regional effort now.”
Economic impact debated
Henrico stands to realize a $42 million economic benefit from the event, Flohr said; some 450,000 spectators are expected to attend the races. Flohr told the board that Henrico would receive an additional $832,000 in hotel and lodging taxes during the nine-day period, but Hazelett questioned his math, saying that the county typically receives about that much during the month of September, when the occupancy rate is about 60 percent.
“We can’t double that [amount] in nine days with only 40 percent vacancy available,” Hazelett said.
The race proposed for Henrico is the initial time trial for men and women, which might begin in Short Pump and travel east to its conclusion in the city. That race would be televised live on a national network, Flohr said. But though Henrico would receive commercials during the broadcast and the opportunity for other exposure, Flohr could provide no specific details. The organization must purchase TV time from a network and has not yet completed the negotiation process, he said.
Tuckahoe District Supervisor Pat O’Bannon told Flohr that the board would need to see a specific list of the benefits it would receive for a $1.4 million donation before determining how to proceed.
Hazelett expressed serious concerns about the costs associated with heavy police and security needed to protect the 1,000 cyclists – some of whom will represent nations with volatile political climates – as well as spectators and citizens.
Those costs, combined with shutting down more than 60 intersections for the race, could total nearly $500,000, Hazelett said – money that he said should be deducted from any donation Henrico makes.
To date, Richmond 2015 has financial commitments from five corporate partners totaling more than $2 million, but Flohr declined to name those companies. He promised Hazelett and the board that he would have specific details and answers to their questions by the first week of October, however.
The UCI event, which began in 1927 and has been held annually since (except for a seven-year period during World War II), will be held in The Netherlands this year, Italy next year and Spain in 2014. The United States has hosted it only once, in Colorado Springs in 1986.
The Varina Ruritan Club hosted the winners of its 2014 Environmental Essay contest at its monthly meeting March 11 in Varina.
The contest, in its eighth year, was for the first time open to students in grades 3-5 at Varina Elementary School. (It previously was open to Sandston Elementary School students.)
The meeting included the winners, parents of the winners, Varina Elementary principal Mark Tyler and several teachers who were in charge of the contest at the school. > Read more.
For the fifth consecutive year, St. Christopher’s and Benedictine will play a varsity baseball game at Glen Allen's RF&P Park as part of a fundraising effort for the River City Buddy Ball program.
The game will take place Saturday, April 12, at 7 p.m., and the teams hope to raise $3,000 through donations, raffles and other efforts. Admission to the game is free, but fans who attend are asked to donate funds for the Glen Allen Youth Athletic Association's Buddy Ball program, which enables disabled children and teens to play baseball. > Read more.
The Henrico Division of Recreation and Parks will dedicate the Highland Springs Little League Majors Field in memory and honor of Rev. Robert “Bob” L. Spears, Jr., on April 12 with a ceremony at the field at 8 a.m.
Spears served the league as a coach and volunteer for 30 years and was praised as a pioneer for equality. His “Finish strong” motto embodied ethical perseverance on the field and in life. > Read more.
Do the Bunny Hop over to Meadow Farm on Saturday for an introduction to all the farm animals there! An introduction to “Global Sounds” – featuring Japanese, Indonesian, West African, Indian, and Brazilian music and dance performances – can be found at the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond will also host the annual Spider spring game, as well as the inaugural Spiders Easter Egg Hunt. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
‘Muppets Most Wanted’ worthy of its franchise
Do Muppets sleep? It’s hard to say.
They don’t really eat (or breathe, as far as anyone can tell). And only occasionally do they have visible, functioning legs.
As far as anyone knows, sleeping might be off the table. And that makes it very hard to accuse the Muppets of sleepwalking through their latest feature, Muppets Most Wanted – even if that’s exactly what’s going on.
Jim Henson’s beloved creations were back in a big way after 2011’s The Muppets, with fame and fortune and even an Oscar, a first for the group (“Rainbow Connection” was nominated, yet somehow failed to collect at the ’79 ceremony). > Read more.
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