If the Tour de Delta returns to city streets in 2022, it may be without its prestigious road race.
Last month, Delta council received a report from city staff seeking approval to review options for hosting the Tour de Delta in 2022. The event was last held July 5-7, 2019, before being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-related restrictions on large gatherings and international travel.
“Given continued uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and its impact on events, travel and international sport, and the overall cost of the event, it is prudent to review this event in terms of other corporate priorities and continued community recovery and report back to council with input from the parks, recreation and culture commission,” director of parks, recreation and culture Carmen Gonzalez wrote in the report.
The three-day Tour de Delta is part of BC Superweek, a series of six pro-cycling events comprising nine races over 10 days. In years past, the Tour has featured a criterium (a lapped race on a closed circuit) in North Delta on day one, followed by another in Ladner on day two, before wrapping up with a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) sanctioned a road race that attracts international cycling teams who use the results to qualify for larger-scale international events like the Olympic Games.
The report states COVID-related restrictions and regulations for international travel have resulted in significantly higher costs for participation due to quarantine rules, leading many teams to focus on local races instead. Uncertainty as to how many international athletes would register for the Tour de Delta in 2022 is a “significant consideration,” the report notes, since lower ridership would likely result in less revenue and fewer sponsors.
In 2019, the city’s net actual cost for hosting the Tour de Delta was $300,000 — approximately $450,000 in expenses and $150,000 in revenue (including sponsorships).
The road race typically accounts for over 35 per cent of the Tour’s total gross expenses, as it “requires significant additional costs” to meet UCI’s standards — things like uniformed police on motorcycles forming part of the mobile support for competitors.
And while in past years the city has received a $50,000 grant from the federal government for hosting a UCI-sanctioned event, that funding is not guaranteed and must be applied for annually. (The report notes staff’s intention to apply for the grant before the Dec. 31, 2021 deadline in case the 2022 race goes ahead.)
As for hosting the criterium races, the report notes a similar amount of administrative, staffing, volunteer recognition and marketing costs would be incurred whether one or two races are held. Hosting a second criterium would result in some additional costs relating to race awards and services, community festivals, and equipment, however the report states those should be offset by additional revenues from sponsorship and registration.
Delta’s 2022 financial plan includes $236,000 to host this year’s Tour de Delta. Staff estimate the city’s net cost for holding two criterium races would be about $200,000, while adding the road race would increase the event’s net cost to between $300,000 and $400,000, depending on the number of riders who sign up and the amount sponsorship money that could be secured.
“Given the uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and international travel, staff believe modifying the event to focus on two criterium races, one in North Delta and one in Ladner, may be the best approach,” the report states.
“Furthermore, the parks, recreation and culture department is facing significant staffing challenges due to ongoing labour market conditions in the Lower Mainland, and a modified event will ensure sufficient staffing capacity is available to plan and deliver it.”
The report says BC Superweek organizers remain optimistic that an event could resume in 2022 “to some degree,” with organizers of the Vancouver and Burnaby events (Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix and Giro di Burnaby, respectively) in a position to move forward. New West Grand Prix, PoCo Grand Prix and Tour de White Rock organizers, meanwhile, are still engaging their municipal councils regarding options for those events.
Staff will report back to Delta council with a preferred option once more information is available regarding other municipalities’ cycling event plans.