Plenty of bikers roared into the Sandusky area for Ohio Bike Week, and a survey shows they had a good time.
But whether the event returns in 2010 isn’t decided yet, and it may not be for some time, organizers say.
“We had a total of 155,235 people, nearly a 23 percent increase,” said Steve Ernst, president of Advantage Entertainment, which organized the event for NorthCoast Thunder Productions.
That tally includes numbers from traffic counters at various venues, paid attendance at events and participants in various rides, Ernst said. He said about 2,300 bikes participated in the event’s parade.
The first two Ohio Bike Weeks lost money. Ernst said bills are still being paid and final figures aren’t available yet, but he is “cautiously optimistic” the event broke even in its third year.
“It’s just shy if we don’t,” he said.
One thing that doesn’t help is that about $12,000 worth of Ohio Bike Week property was stolen during the event, including an inflatable Budweiser balloon, an inflatable Harley-Davidson symbol and various large signs and banners, Ernst said.
Leftover Bike Week T-shirts are being sold at “blowout prices” for the next few days at RoederCycles, the building formerly occupied by Roeder Harley-Davidson, Ernst said.
Roeder Harley-Davidson closed only a few weeks before Ohio Bike Week began.
Ernst said he would like to see the event return next year.
“I certainly hope so. We’re very excited. We’re being very sensitive to the things that are happening to Roeder Harley-Davidson,” he said.
He said organizers will need to make sure the support is there to return in 2010.
By October or November, it will be likely there will be a firm answer and the ability to make a public announcement, Ernst said.
Corporate sponsors “usually like to hear from you in September and October,” he said.
Julie Roeder, one of the owners of NorthCoast Thunder Productions, said she “absolutely” wants Ohio Bike Week to continue in the area.
“We feel it is a very positive and lucrative venture for the community,” she said. “And also if it didn’t, the time and resources spent to build it would be in vain.”
Dawn Weinhardt, managing director of Lake Erie Shores and Islands East, said her organization will need to decide whether to support bringing Ohio Bike Week back.
“Our board hasn’t met yet,” she said. “I’m sure that’s going to be a topic of conversation with our board.”
The tourism bureau put additional money into Ohio Bike Week after this year’s event was threatened by the closure of Roeder Harley-Davidson. All told, it expects to wind up spending $50,000 on the event, although not all claims have been presented for payment yet, Weinhardt said.
The board may want to talk about whether management of the event needs to change, she said.
“This type of event, I don’t think it should be losing money,” she said.
Business owners from the community appear to be pleased, she said. Hotels, for example, reported good bookings during the week.
“Most of the restaurants we’ve heard from said they did very well,” she said.
A survey of Bike Week participants gathered responses from 202 people, Weinhardt said.
Of that group, 61 percent rated their experience as “excellent,” while nearly 28 percent said it was “good.”
Weinhardt said 37 percent stayed in local hotels. Of the people who booked overnight stays, 44 percent stayed for two nights while 25 percent stayed for three nights.
The largest group of people providing estimates for total spending said they spent between $250 and $499, while another 21 percent spent between $100 and $249.
While 30 percent of the participants were local — from within 30 minutes of Sandusky — 47 percent came from elsewhere in Ohio and 20 percent, or one in five, came from out of state.
The future of Harley-Davidson in the area also remains unknown.
“We are optimistic that the future will see a Harley-Davidson dealership in this market,” Roeder said. “Hopefully it will be at this property.”