This story has been archived from the Sunday, August 14, 2005

Manitou Springs thrives with influx of visitors, business


Athletes who pit their legs and lungs against the merciless mountain during the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon might find themselves running on empty.

Many Manitou Springs businesses, however, will be running at full speed.

Visitor spending during the two-day event will add up to about $2.42 million, estimates Dave Bamberger of Bamberger & Associates, a Colorado Springs economic research and consulting firm. And, direct and indirect impacts to city and county sales tax receipts should be around $125,000, he said.

Each August in this small town at the base of Pikes Peak, “No Vacancy” signs are as plentiful as the well-honed bodies. All 700 hotel and motel rooms are full during the races, said Leslie Lewis, director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.

“None of our other summer events fill our lodging like this one does,” she said.

Some runners even book rooms for the following year before they leave, said Michael Howard, owner of Castaways Restaurant, Inn & Suites.

“They try to get their reservations in early because every year we’re full,” he said.

This year’s 50th anniversary will bring 1,800 competitors for Saturday’s Ascent and 800 for Sunday’s Marathon. The town is bracing for 4,000 to 5,000 visitors, possibly more, said Mike Leslie, Manitou Springs’ budget and finance director.

“Sixty percent of the registrants who enter the race come from outside Colorado Springs, and 40 percent are from outside the state,” he said. “That outside money makes us happy.”

Some Manitou businesses benefit from the event’s tendency to be a family affair, with noncompetitors and children heading to local gift shops, art galleries and attractions while the runners compete.

Other businesses benefit because they sell goods that interest the runners. Kinfolks Mountain Outfitters, which sells outdoor clothing, shoes and gear, also has space for patrons to sit and enjoy a local microbrew, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or a juice concoction.

“The marathon brings people together, and they like to congregate at our shop to talk about it,” said Josh Vonloh, a sales associate.

Vonloh said business increased substantially during last year’s race weekend.

While hotels and motels likely benefit most from the deluge of visitors, restaurants also go into overdrive, Leslie said.

The Dutch Kitchen is packed with racers the week before the event, said Deborah Flynn, who has owned the restaurant since 1977 with her husband Mike.

“Some racers come every year and eat every meal with us,” she said, adding that the event boosts diners by up to 50 percent.

But Flynn and others say there’s a downside, too.

The Dutch Kitchen loses business Sunday, Marathon day, because it is near the finish line, Flynn said. About a decade ago, her husband decided to close the restaurant for the day.

“They eliminate parking, and nobody even notices we’re here,” she said. “We’re losing money, but we just decided it’s not worth it to stay open that day.”

Lana Fox of Mushroom Monday, a gifts and collectibles shop, said the race “kills” her business.

“It’s usually one of my slowest weekends because people come for the race but don’t shop. They take up most of the parking spaces, so there’s little business,” Fox said.

This year, work is being done to find solutions for the parking problem and traffic congestion, Leslie said.

The Pikes Peak Road Runners will secure parking lots at private businesses, as well as the parking lots at Manitou Springs high school and middle school.

Still, the impact of increased business from the races can last beyond the weekend.

Runners often remember the hospitality, Lewis said, and return to their favorite motels and restaurants while training.

“This event brings notoriety to the whole region... many of the runners come here other times of the year and frequent the same businesses,” she said.


Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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