Bike Week sputtering financially

PERKINS TWP. Ohio Bike Week's organizers are trying to save their early June event, but they are day
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Ohio Bike Week's organizers are trying to save their early June event, but they are days late and thousands of dollars short.

A May 15 deadline to provide a $40,000 line of credit to pay for security at the Erie County Fairgrounds had not been met by Tuesday afternoon. The fair board's president said Tuesday he cannot make the fairgrounds available unless the cost of providing county deputies can be covered.

Organizers are struggling to pay about $70,000 worth of bills to make Ohio Bike Week happen for a third year in a row, including the fairgrounds security fees, money to print the event's program and fees to provide portable bathrooms downtown.

Roeder Harley-Davidson, the main sponsor for the event, closed its doors Friday. Passes for events are now being sold next door, at Shifters Bar & Grill.

The owners of the dealership, Will and Julie Roeder, also own the company hosting Ohio Bike Week.

Ohio Bike Week is scheduled for June 5-14.

"At this point, we are extremely hopeful we can work through these things," said Steve Ernst, who is coordinating the event.

The $100 all-access passes have a provision printed on them stating there will be no refunds.

Despite that, if the event falls through, "it would be our intent to refund people," Ernst said. "We're not out to stick anybody."

Security for the fairgrounds during Ohio Bike Week is provided by Erie County Sheriff's deputies who are paid overtime. Those expenses were about $20,000 the first year and about $23,500 the second year.

Each time, Bike Week put up a $40,000 line of credit.

A $10,500 deposit has been paid to help cover rental fees and cleanup costs, but fair board president Bob McDowell said he told Ernst that security costs also must be covered.

McDowell said he suggested the $40,000 cost could be reduced by trimming events at the fairgrounds.

"Budgets are tight," he said. "There has to be assurances bills are going to be paid."

The May 15 deadline was set to give the sheriff's office time to plan for security and draw up work schedules for the deputies, Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Paul Sigsworth said.

Requests for June vacations by deputies have been put off because the sheriff thought they might be needed for Bike Week, Sigsworth said.

Erie County can't afford to forgive the cost of security, Commissioner Bill Monaghan said.

"We don't have the money in the funds to be donating $40,000 worth of free security," he said.

Ernst said Bike Week organizers are "exhausting every resource" to find partners who will help pay the security bill.

He said one possible solution would be for the county to allow daily payments for security, or compromise on the amount of money to be put in escrow.

During a meeting Monday night with Joan Van Offeren, executive director of Lake Erie Shores & Islands East, Ernst and Julie Roeder asked for about $20,000 to cover the cost of printing the rally guide with the event's program schedule, said Dawn Weinhardt, managing director of the bureau.

Ernst and Roeder were asked to turn in a written request. Once that happens, the visitor bureau's board would have to meet to consider the request, Weinhardt said.

The visitor bureau already had committed to cover up to $20,000 of the marketing costs. It did not pay the money up front, but once the bills have been paid, Ohio Bike Week can submit for reimbursement, Weinhardt said. In addition, the visitor bureau promised to pay $5,000 to help cover the cost of an economic impact study, she said.

Van Offeren wants Ohio Bike Week's organizers to give details on how much money it is seeking from other organizations.

"We want to make sure if we invest additional funds the event is going to actually happen," she said.

Ohio Bike Week also is trying to come up with the $8,698 needed to rent portable bathrooms, Ernst said. A foundation grant request to fund the bathrooms was turned down, he said.