The 2009 Tour of Missouri funding was released on Tuesday afternoon after Governor Jay Nixon had frozen the funds from the Missouri Tourism Commision last week.
According to the Associated Press, the Democratic governor said Tuesday he believes the Tour of Missouri should go forward and he is allowing the $1.5 million to be spent on the race after tourism officials and race organizers agreed to share financial information related to the event, including details on spending, with his administration.
“The race will go on this year, and Missourians deserve to know that state funds for the event are used transparently and accountably,” Nixon said in a written statement. “They should know precisely how money for the Tour of Missouri is being spent, and that the event is being run in a way that minimizes the cost to taxpayers.”
Race organizers thanked supporters during a Tuesday conference call, saying there had been a “sigh of relief” when Nixon’s office announced the money could go forward.
Grassroots groups from throughout the state set up a web site, www.savetourofmissouri.com, in hopes of having the 2009 Tour of Missouri. Thousands of emails were sent to the governor’s office.
The possibility of cancellation prompted outrage from race organizers and supporters. The Missouri Tourism Commission called a meeting to reaffirm its support for the race and questioned whether the governor’s office could dictate how tourism funds are spent. Supporters also said blocking funds could cost the state more money through breach-of-contract lawsuits.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, credited with helping start and promote the annual endurance cycling race, released a letter shortly after the funds were frozen last week and encouraged fans of the tour to call and email the governor to have him release the funds. Kinder said contracts between the Tour of Missouri Inc. and the state were signed and waiting for the funds to be released.
According to Kinder’s office last Friday, the Missouri Tourism Commission voted unanimously to keep the funds with the Tour of Missouri. The Missouri Tourism Commission told the Tour of Missouri to go ahead as planned until Governor Nixon made his announcement.
“I am especially delighted to be able to welcome Gov. Jay Nixon to the ranks of supporters of this race, of this wonderful event for our state,” Kinder said on Tuesday.
Interim tourism director Bob Smith said financial records were being collected for Nixon’s administration and he was pleased the race would continue.
“We’re very excited about it,” Smith said. “We think it’s great for all the communities involved. I know that they are going to be just ecstatic about this.”
Of the $3.3 million budget for the Tour of Missouri, $1.5 million comes from the state Tourism Division, $500,000 from a state finance board and the rest from corporate and private donors.
This is the first year Farmington is involved in the Tour De France-style race. A total of 11 communities were chosen to serve as hosts of either starting or stopping points. It was said during the news conference that bringing the entourage associated with the race through a community could mean up to more than $1 million in tourism revenue. Last year’s race netted the state more than $30 million in tourism dollars, while the first year brought some estimated $26 million to the state.
Thousands of racers, support crews, event coordinators, state tourism personnel and national and international sports media crews will be traveling with the race. Along with thousands of onlookers along the route, the event will be broadcast to some 150 countries.
Lt. Gov. Kinder said 32 communities filed requests to be part of this year’s race, which will begin in St. Louis on Sept. 7 and end in Kansas City on Sept. 13.
This year’s race will stretch in excess of 600 miles over some of the roughest terrain found in the state. The first two years the race stayed mainly from St. Louis to Kansas City. This time racers will head south from St. Louis through Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, turn northwest from Farmington to Rolla, west through Chillicothe and St. Joseph to end in Kansas City. The portion from Farmington to Rolla will be the most challenging for racers, according to event organizers.
Major sponsors for this year’s race include Missouri Farm Bureau, Edward Jones, Emerson and Drury Hotels.
A new web site outlining the race can be found at www.tourofmissouri.com.