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Butte cashes in big; Annual race’s growth positively affects Mining City’s commerce

A number of mountain bike riders get ready for the start of the 50-mile ride which is a part of the two competition event, the Butte 100 Mountain Bike Race. Both the 50- and 100-mile races take place on Saturday.

Butte has put the pedal to the metal and it has all added up to coin for the Mining City over the past six summers.

The seventh annual Butte 100 mountain bike race is Saturday with 50- and 100-mile events ready to take center stage.

The 100-mile race begins at 6 a.m. at Homestake Pass just off Interstate 90, east of Butte, while the 50-mile race starts at 8 a.m.

Yet, with all the strong athletes ready to take on the challenge of the Butte-area terrain, one thing that may slip through the cracks of competition is the impact the race weekend has on local businesses.

“It is absolutely amazing with the people coming to Butte to train for the Butte 100,” said Stephanie Sorini, marketing director of the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce. “They are eating in our restaurants, they are shopping our stores, and staying in our hotels.”

Sorini said that with the influx of avid, competitive riders, that the financial gains for Butte during the past two 100s were dramatic: An estimated $200,000 in 2011 and $225,000 in 2012.

She said it would be reasonable to expect $250,000 to $300,000 to pump through the Butte economy this week thanks to the race.

Sponsored by Triple Ring Productions, the race attracts people from all points of the biking map and with that a need for more food, more things to do, and more places to sleep.

“From an economic standpoint something like this is fantastic for local business,” said Courtney McKee, co-owner of Headframe Sprits. “Between the hotel and tourism industry especially, on the weekend of the race, it makes a difference.

One of the bigger impacts beyond the money spent in our community. It is a really nice way to market Butte and the environment and the landscape. Butte is developing this fantastic reputation as being Montana’s festival city and it is entirely accurate.”

Gina Evans, the race’s coordinator, says that over the past years the event has been held in Butte, she has seen restaurants, hotels, and bike shops take on the bigger influx of business.

“The restaurants see a great increase and I hear this since many of them are our sponsors,” Evans said. “They might come down here and be here for the whole week. They move in and ride our trails, enjoy our restaurants and enjoy our local shops. We have a wonderful backyard to play in.”

Evans, herself a racer, says many competitors come early to get used to the altitude and to acclimate themselves to the trails.

For business owners like McKee, Headframe Spirits, located at 21 S. Montana St., the Butte 100 creates new customer relations.

“We wind up with a really wonderful group of new customers walking in the door and we will see them all weekend long,” McKee said. “Some of these translate into long-term customers from far off places. We look at it as an opportunity for them and the racers’ to experience and learn about this excellent community.”

McKee said the race is the first event her business has sponsored.

“This is one of those events that reflect very well on Butte,” she said. “It reaches out beyond our mining culture and our drinking culture and our rough-and-tumble reputation. We have so many events that center on uptown, and the buildings, and the architecture and the history, but the Butte 100 is about the landscape. We are lucky to have that in our backyard. This is something to be very proud of.”

Nick Kujawa, who along with his wife Jen, is an owner of the Hennessy Market, a race sponsor. Their support for the 100 stems from a want to promote a healthy way of living. They also see the benefits the race gives Butte in return.

“As a locally owned business we hope to support many local events,” Kujawa said. “A lot of things related to healthy living we try to sponsor. The Butte 100 is another one of these great events that bring great athletes from around the country. I can’t imagine people any more healthy than those who ride over 100 miles.”

Kujawa said that with the rock climbing, skiing, and even the days of the 70s skating boom, the Butte 100 is just another aspect of pumping up not only the coffers of local business, but also allowing a form of public relations much needed in the Mining City.

“It helps local business by raising the profile of all of Butte in general,” Kujawa said. “When you look at these bikes they are riding on, they are thousands of dollars put into those bikes. It is bringing Butte to a profile that we are not just engineering and mining. We have great trails for riding and offer a great quality of life. This helps us recover and go on to the next level.”

Thanks to the increased interest in the event it has aided the growth in positive effects on Butte commerce.

Evans said that what was once a race featuring 45 competitors, the Butte 100 is now a battle between 250 athletes and an event now using over 90 volunteers.

“If you take one racer and multiply him by three to four family racers and multiply that by 250 it is pretty awesome to attract that number and from a different demographic,” Evans said.

Sorini’s husband Peter is an active participant of the Butte race, but is what the riders from outside of the town that brings in the most vital aspect of the economic boom during this week of festivities.

“People should be aware that the Butte 100 has 250 riders and some are from our area, but most are from outside the area,” Stephanie Sorini said. “It is such a boost to our economy for them to come and bring in their families along for the week.”

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