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As this semester comes to a close, VCU has its eyes on September when thousands of spectators plan to watch the Union Cycliste Internationale bike race rip through Richmond.
The River City was selected to host the event in 2011, beating out Muscat, Oman and Quebec City, Canada. Ever since, the city has been preparing to handle the masses from around the world that will converge the week of Sept. 19-27.
Paul Shanks, a Richmond 2015 spokesperson, said the city is prepared with an ample number of hotel rooms — 18,000 in the Richmond metro area — for the expected 450,000 spectators (spectators are counted more than once if they attend multiple races).
An additional 300 million viewers are expected to tune in from around the world to watch the race on television.
Twelve championship races will cut through the Richmond cobblestone on four distinct courses, all of which run through VCU’s campus. The men’s elite course begins 20 miles north of Richmond at Kings Dominion, but once in Richmond the cyclists will pedal down West Broad Street, passing the Siegel Center and the VCU School of the Arts, before crossing the finish line near the downtown Marriott Hotel.
Crowds will be able to cheer on racers from Monroe Park in the road circuit course, which will begin and end at the downtown Marriott and run through Franklin, Main and Lombardy streets. Fans will again be able to view racers in the team time trial and the time trial circuit from Monroe Park.
The final road closures for the event will not be announced until July, Shanks said. He said the Richmond 2015 organizers are in talks with all the municipalities affected by the race course.
These road closures are an important missing element in how VCU will prepare for the event, said Adam Crowe, director of emergency preparedness for VCU.
Crowe said the flow of resources — mostly food — to the university will likely be hampered to some extent. Crowe said the university has already started talks with restaurants part of VCU dining, but they won’t know what locations will remain open until July.
Any decision VCU makes regarding the bike race has to go through many steps before it is approved. Crowe said VCU is considering placing temporary pedestrian bridges over the race track. This measure would require money to cover costs, a permit from the city and permission from UCI.
In an email message to VCU’s students and faculty, Senior Vice President for Finance William Decatur, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Gail Hackett said the school sees the race as a chance “to showcase our global, urban, public research university and its premier academic medical center.”
VCU Medical Center has been named the sole medical partner for the race and a committee of representatives from VCU and the medical center continue to meet to wrap up the “logistics of participating in this important city-wide event,” the email from Decatur said.
The biggest direct impact on the VCU student body will be that no classes will be held the week of Sept. 21-27. During this time all residence halls will remain open for students who decide to stay on campus.
Jennifer Carmean, a spokeswoman for university initiatives at VCU, said the 9-month dorms will be surveying their residents to see how many will be staying for the race.
Shanks said he hopes that VCU students “stay for the party.”
The university has also developed some one-credit classes for students to take between Aug. 24 and Oct. 9, which will be provided at the cost of $50 per credit. All of the courses will in some way be relevant to the bike race.
Shanks said the race is expected to bring in $129.2 million in visitor spending, with the total economic impact landing at $158 million across the state.
VCU has not tried to define how it will be economically impacted, Crowe said.
As September draws closer, all parties involved will continue preparing for the event.
“We’re going to be nimble,” Carmean said. “As more information becomes available from the planners of the event, we will work to accommodate those plans.”
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