Apr 17, 2023 - News

RAGBRAI's Polk County trek could cost metro area more than $1M

A photo of RAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI riders in 2013, the last time the event was in Des Moines. Photo courtesy of Catch Des Moines

RAGBRAI's Polk County trek may cost more than $1 million, metro organizers tell Axios.

Why it matters: Public safety.

  • Some estimate as many as 100,000 riders participating in the 50-mile route from Ames to DSM on July 26.

State of play: Plans are still in progress but the route is anticipated to take over a section of East 14th Street in both directions and likely require the assistance of hundreds of traffic, law enforcement and emergency personnel.

  • It's still unknown how much local governments will be asked to contribute, what corporate donations may cover or how much RAGBRAI/the Des Moines Register may pay, Trina Flack of Catch DSM tells Axios.
  • Her group is working with RAGBRAI and multiple metro governments to plan for the event.

Flashback: The event's last metro appearance in 2013 included roughly 20,000 riders and came to DSM from Valley Junction, according to a Register article published that year.

  • Corporate donors gave $100,000 to help cover the capital city portion of that year's ride.
  • 30 DSM police officers were stationed along the route with other officers working 12-hour shifts to cover the rest of the city.

Zoom in: Cost projections for this year's event are complicated by an uncertainty in the number of riders, Flack said.

  • Her group is generally planning for about 50,000 riders but recognizes that participation and crowds could be larger, especially if weather is favorable.

The intrigue: RAGBRAI is trying to best a bike parade record currently held by an event in Italy in 2000 when almost 49,000 participated.

What's next: Expect firmer cost estimates and requests of both governments and businesses in coming weeks, Flack said.

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