GREG COMBS: Thinking Big: Arokiasamy Trying to Create Tour de America
I recently met with Frank Arokiasamy, the president of Aqu Inc., a Lumberton-based company that is organizing a yearly bike race from the East Coast to the West Coast similar to the Tour de France.
"I believe that the country is ready for just such a venture," Arokiasamy said. "The Tour de France will always hold the honor of being the preeminent cycling race in the world. It is steeped in history and pride that will be hard to rival. However, the Tour of America will seek to replicate the pride and tradition of this incredible event, but have it staged in the United States."
I asked Frank how he decided to host such an event.
"I was watching the Tour De France in July 2002, and watching Lance, and other Americans, and team US Postal doing incredibly well," Arokiasamy said, "but had no opportunity to see any of them compete in an upper-echelon race in the U.S. So I asked myself, why not host an event in the U.S., so I have been planning for the past five years to put this together."
Arokiasamy believes many cycling fans feel it is a great time for the United States to have a legendary event. In keeping with world class cycling tradition, the 2009 Tour of America will be a 21-stage, 2,200-mile race.
"The planned route during the month of September will demonstrate many of America's natural beauties as racers compete from the East Coast, through the Midwest, across the Rocky Mountains and end at the Pacific coast.
"Major race route cities will include New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Denver, Las Vegas, Sacramento and San Francisco," Arokiasamy said.
Based on recent cycling events that have been held in the United States, the Tour of America will be one of the largest spectator events in the history of American sports. Currently, there are two races in the United States that are gaining recognition in the world of professional cycling.
The Tour de Georgia has been in existence for the last five years, and each of those years the event has posted record audiences. As well, the Tour of California posted record crowds of 1.3 million people for its event in its first year of existence.
"This seems to reflect the readiness of the country to embrace something on the national stage," Arokiasamy said. "We plan to attract a national audience of 25-30 million fans."
Although Frank is not a cyclist, he sees the monetary value in hosting a grand cycling tour in the United States. He is a corporate consultant and has a doctoral degree in economics from Southern Illinois University. Arokiasamy's economic impact analysis of the Tour de Georgia is estimated to be $26 million, and $100 million for the Tour of California.
"Both of the events are shorter stage races that last one week," he said. "My conservative projected economic impact to the communities that the Tour of America will traverse will be in excess of $500 million.
"The Tour of America will invite close to 189 riders from 21 of the world's elite cycling teams to compete for their share of a $10 million cash/prize purse, the largest of any international cycling event.
"We want to work with USA Cycling and the UCI to establish this event as a complement to the major international races, and at the same time not conflict with established races in the United States.
"Overall, we want to make sure the Tour of America strengthens the sport of cycling and the race calendar."
Arokiasamy's motto is "Changing the business of cycling; one revolution at a time ... ."
He said, "The business side is actually what seemed to be the easiest," he said. "Create an athletic 'spectacle' of extended duration, bring it to millions of people nationwide, and have events physically take place in numerous cities and towns across the nation. Invite the best professional cycling teams in the world, and offer major companies in the U.S. slots for sponsorship. Plan for future expansion to neighboring countries and international companies, and it is a win-win situation."
As a cyclist and more importantly as a professor of sport management, I feel Frank Arokiasamy has earned a grade of an 'A.' He has done his homework by providing great detail from the business aspect of planning this event.
For more information about the Tour of America go to the Web site www.thetourofamerica.com.
Greg Combs can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
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