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Officials concerned with Criterium's impact on SL business

Several local officials are concerned that a popular bike race is having a negative impact on businesses in downtown Saranac Lake.

During this week's regular meeting of the Saranac Lake Village Board of Trustees, Mayor Clyde Rabideau said he had high hopes for the Saranac Lake Downtown Criterium when it was introduced three years ago.

The idea, Rabideau said, was to bring cyclists, their fans, and their families to downtown Saranac Lake for the fast-paced race, which features hundreds of bikers zipping around a 0.6 mile loop on village streets.

But Rabideau says local businesses haven't seen the sort of economic impact they had hoped for. To make matters worse, the event closes down Main Street, Broadway, and other roads to motorized traffic, which Rabideau says is keeping customers away from downtown shops and restaurants.

"I was hopeful three years ago when it first started that we'd get a lot of spectators and participants staying in town more and shopping more, but it hasn't panned out that way as much as we'd like," he said. "My thought was that we talk about it and talk to the organizers and perhaps ratchet it back so that they're out of downtown by Sunday at noon."

"That way, they can still get the race in, we still have exposure to the cyclists, perhaps they would stay, that remains to be seen," Rabideau added. "They would have the afternoon to do so. But then we wouldn't have such a negative impact on the downtown merchants."

Rabideau says spectators and participants in the Criterium aren't spending money the way officials had anticipated. Trustee Jeff Branch says the event was originally brought in to generate business and foot traffic.

"My thought is, if it's not doing that and we're spending thousands of dollars to host it, I think we need to rethink it, to be honest with you," he said.

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