Cape Girardeau is ready for the race

Sunday, September 6, 2009
Tracey Glenn, chairwoman of the local Tour of Missouri organizing committee, talks to students at Central Middle School Friday about the race. (Fred Lynch)

Volunteer assignments made. Money raised. Street plan ready. Shuttles hired.

The checklist for the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee is complete. Beginning Monday afternoon, the plans will become action as the city parking lot at Independence and Main streets is invaded by a brigade of paid crew and volunteers who will set up the awards stage, giant TV monitor, health fair and vendor areas.

Organizers expect up to 30,000 people to crowd downtown Cape Girardeau as 120 riders from 15 teams finish a 112.4-mile race from Ste. Genevieve, Mo. Depending on speed, the race is expected to finish between 3 and 4:15 p.m.

A smooth operation is essential, not only to make the race work for the competitors but to showcase Cape Girardeau to a worldwide audience, said Tracey Glenn, vice president of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and chairwoman of the local committee.

"We are going to have all these people coming in to visit our town," Glenn said. "They will get a chance to experience what we have to offer. If people come here and have a great experience, they may come back."

As of Saturday, the volunteer list was overpledged, said Troy Vaughn, recreation director for Southeast Missouri State University, who is serving as volunteer coordinator. With 350 volunteers needed, 390 are committed to help. That will allow for a few extra marshals near key intersections and a backup for anyone who has an emergency and can't participate, he said.

"The key for us is that every position we put out there is important," Vaughn said.

Last week, volunteers visited every residence along the route with fliers and tried to personally contact the residents in 450 homes along the rural sections of the route, he said. A few were upset that their road will be restricted during the race but most are eager to see it, Vaughn said.

To support the race -- local organizers are responsible for food and hotel rooms for racing teams, their crews and the race-organizing companies -- cash donations of $69,000 and about $25,000 worth of in-kind donations, Glenn said.

The three biggest contributors -- the gold sponsors at $20,000 each -- are Saint Francis Medical Center, Southeast Missouri Hospital and the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Downtown Cape Girardeau already has many closure signs in place. (Kit Doyle)

The hospitals are Cape Girardeau County's two largest employers, and the contract to host the race calls for a health and wellness fair. Southeast Hospital will have its Southeast Health on Wheels facility parked at Independence and Main streets as a first-aid station. HealthPoint instructors will demonstrate a new cycling class and the hospital will sponsor youth bicycle sprints.

Saint Francis will have staff from Fitness Plus on site with information about its programs, a children's area with exercise equipment, a cooling station, outreach staff and chair massages, said Jason Bandermann, referral services manager. The hospital will also sponsor tricycle races for children 3 to 6 years old.

Both hospitals said they are participating because the race fits their health mission and their sense of community responsibility.

Kellan True, president of the SEMO Cycling Team, shows a racing bike to fifth-and sixth-graders at Central Middle School Friday during an assembly program. (Fred Lynch)

"Southeast Missouri Hospital was founded by community leaders and has always been an active participant in the community," said Jim Wente, president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "The Tour of Missouri is a one-of-a-kind event for this region."

Bandermann said Saint Francis wants the race to inspire healthy living. "There is just something about seeing a world-class athlete speeding down the highway at 30 mph on two wheels and powering it themselves that makes people want to take that initiative in their own lives and live that healthy lifestyle."

Touting the city

The CVB's job is to market Cape Girardeau, so the decision to use tax money raised from restaurants and hotels wasn't difficult, said Chuck Martin, CVB executive director.

In his seven years on the job, Martin said nothing like the Tour has come along as a chance to tout the city. There's a practical side as well, he noted. If the event works, it makes the city look competent.

"It is one more thing on our resume that this community has the ability and the capacity to not only handle a quality event but large crowds as well," he said. "It is going to give us the opportunity to shine."

As of Friday, hotel bookings were still available for Monday night at all area inns, Martin said. Four hotels -- Holiday Inn Express, Drury Lodge, Drury Suites and the Hampton Inn -- are fully booked Tuesday night, most with tour riders, crews and officials, Martin said.

To move people to and from downtown, shuttle service will run from West Park Mall and the Show Me Center to Broadway and Main Street beginning at 11 a.m. Police urge people to use the shuttles because parking will be at a premium and several streets will be closed or have restricted traffic throughout the day, said Lt. Tracy Lemonds of the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

Move or be towed

People parked in restricted areas will be given a chance to move their vehicles but cars will be towed if necessary, Lemonds said. "We will make every attempt if their vehicle is parked on the route. or an area we need access to, to make every effort to contact them," Lemonds said. "If it comes down to probably an hour before the race is scheduled to come through, we will have a wrecker there."

Out-of-town spectator traffic will be moved to shuttle locations based on the direction of their arrival. From the north, vehicles will be directed to use exit 99 on Interstate 55 -- Center Junction -- and follow signs to Lexington Avenue and Sprigg Street. From the south, vehicles will use exit 96 -- William Street, also called Route K -- and be directed to Mount Auburn Road and the mall.

The shuttles will deposit passengers at Broadway and Main Street, two blocks from the finish line. Downtown merchants hope that will give visitors a chance to sample wares from antiques to clothing to food as they make their way to the main event area.

"They are excited and just trying to figure out how to handle something where you really don't know what to expect," Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, said of the merchants. "They all have a little bit of anxiety and a little bit of possibility for the day."

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent Address:

43 S. Main St., Cape Girardeau, MO.

Map of pertinent addresses

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