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Bikes? Iowa City, North Liberty yawn

BY NOELLE ALKHAWAJA | FEBRUARY 04, 2015 5:00 AM

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As towns across Iowa prepare for the annual RAGBRAI, Iowa City and North Liberty decided not put bids to be overnight communities in favor of other ongoing projects.

Coralville, which did put in a bid, will host riders for a fifth time this July. For the first time, the city will center the event on the Iowa River Landing.

RAGBRAI participants will reach Coralville on July 24. The ride will begin in Sioux City on July 18; other overnight stops include Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Eldora, Cedar Falls, and Hiawatha. The ride will end in Davenport.

Iowa City officials had thought about bidding to be an overnight city, said Geoff Fruin, the assistant city manager.

“We considered putting in a bid this year, and we decided it would be best to wait,” he said. “We have a number of very high-profile projects that are either under construction or will be in the next two years.”

The Gateway Project and the Park Road bridge reconstruction will be the main focus for Iowa City this summer, Fruin said.

North Liberty communications director Nick Bergus said the city has numerous projects it must finish before attempting to once again become a host community.

“In 2008, we hosted RAGBRAI,” Bergus said. “Obviously, hosting RAGBRAI for an overnight is a pretty big ordeal.”

He said the upcoming Liberty High “is going to require a lot of pressure on our part.”

Bergus noted that North Liberty has infrastructure improvements to complete, which require a lot of time and staff commitment.

“We have sewer and water projects, as well as road projects, that are taking up a lot of staff time,” he said. “We have ongoing other projects like a big highway project we are hoping to finish up this spring and summer.”

According to a study from the Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program at the University of Northern Iowa in 2012, RAGBRAI has an impact of $16.9 million in direct spending.

The weekly average spent by a rider in the study was around $1,900.

This year’s event will feature 8,500 weeklong riders as well as 1,500 daily riders.

Despite potential upside, city officials decided the timing wasn’t right.

“They just decided not to put in a bid,” said Joshua Schamberger, the president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They have every intention of putting in a bid in three years, when they have finished construction on Dubuque [Street].”

Fruin said Iowa City has many large projects taking up a lot of time and efforts by staff that would be heavily involved in RAGBRAI activities.

He said Iowa City wants to “showcase” the University of Iowa’s buildings undergoing planning or construction, such as the new Hancher and the new music building.

Despite not bidding, both cities have offered to promote Coralville’s role as host.

“We offered up a letter of support for Coralville’s bid this year,” Fruin said. “And we look forward to working with it to make that a very memorable stop for the riders this year.”


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