EAGLE — On the second to last Saturday in October 2012, AmericInn Lodge and Suites in Eagle had 14 rooms rented.
Last Saturday, the hotel had 48 rooms booked. Of that number, lodge manager Lonnie Leto said 99 percent came from families in town for the Colorado High School Cycling League State Championships.
“The guests were a blast,” Leto said. “They loved the town and a lot of them said they would come back to visit.”
That’s exactly the kind of anecdotal information the town hoped to see when it poured $60,000 into a trail building effort to lure the state’s high school mountain-biking organization to town. The new Haymaker Trail was built specifically to meet the high school league’s specifications and is now a lasting community amenity for Eagle.
Leto, who also serves as representative on the Eagle Marketing and Events Advisory Committee, believes last week’s state biking championships combined two markets Eagle has long considered as prime opportunities — mountain-biking enthusiasts and youth sports participants. He noted that while Eagle has been trumpeting its great mountain-bike opportunities for the past couple of years, big numbers of overnight guests didn’t converge to the community until that interest was paired with the high school event. He’s become a true believer in the idea that Eagle should reach out to youth sports groups because tournament travel is a priority for families.
“You can skip a beach vacation, but you aren’t going to miss your kid’s baseball season. There is something to be said for that,” Leto said.
AmericInn wasn’t the only busy hotel last weekend.
“I called on the hotels on the Friday before the weekend and nearly all were full,” said Eagle Marketing and Events Coordinator Amy Cassidy. “There were just a few vacant rooms here and there.”
Additionally, local eateries reported an uptick in business.
“At Red Canyon Cafe, Ryan Murray said he was crazy busy on Sunday and likewise Sunday at Yeti’s Grind was significantly busier than usual according to owner Tara Picklo,” Cassidy said.
Saturday dinner business was also brisk.
“Cameron from the Dusty Boot says they were very busy and that he felt the exposure they received, as well as all the positive comments they heard, was huge for the town,” Cassidy said.
When it rains ...
As the bike event was under way, town officials learned that the November edition of Sunset magazine included a feature titled “Why You’ll Love Eagle, CO.”
“Sometimes the saying, ‘When it rains, it pours,’ applies to good news,” said Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney.
The Sunset article includes photos depicting recreational opportunities, scenic vistas and local food fare. There is also a graphic showing Eagle’s proximity to Vail and Beaver Creek and its convenient location along Interstate 70.
“It’s fat-tire friendly. At 1,500 feet lower in elevation than nearby Beaver Creek and Vail, Eagle keeps its 109 miles of bike trails open to cyclists until Dec. 15,” reads the article’s opening line.
While various businesses in town report the bike event brought them business, the final analysis of the event’s impact won’t be available for months. There is a roughly three-month delay between the time sales taxes are collected and when the state reports back about the figures. That means it will be 2014 before Eagle can really compare data.
But in looking ahead to 2014, the community does know one thing. The Colorado High School Cycling League is coming back. Director Kate Rau has already committed to bring the series to Eagle for next fall’s season.