Editorial: It is time to reawaken a sleeping giant

Remember these days? It looks like a rally is on the way back. But will they put the motorcycles back on San Benito Street? That is one of the important questions ahead for the city.

The city’s signature event and its best chance for renewed economic activity has been dormant over the past four years, so it is good to see city council members are showing serious interest in reviving a Hollister motorcycle rally in July 2013.

Hollister council members have been on a teeter totter when it comes to showing leadership and sanctioning an official motorcycle rally – a common sense move considering the city is known internationally for its biker tradition and annual Independence Day gathering. Despite the new mayor’s decision to recuse himself due to a prospective financial gain – Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, an outspoken rally supporter, owns The Vault property downtown and has reaped significant revenue from the event – Hollister officials appear to be on the upswing while taking another look at the event’s prospects.

Considering the five-year absence, officials are taking the responsible approach in starting off relatively small, with expectations to grow in subsequent years. They are also wise to ensure that the rally pays for itself with regard to any funds spent by taxpayers. Although the economic gains would likely outweigh most costs incurred by a rally, there is no reason that city costs for such an event – drawing tens of thousands of people – cannot be recouped.

Aside from laying out likely costs, city officials can start work with local business organizations to begin planning so that local merchants can maximize profits with so many people downtown and elsewhere in the city and county. Government, nonprofit and business leaders should look at past rallies and find out what leaders did right and wrong, and use those examples to improve the event moving forward.

As for looking to outside rallies to find examples of success, Hollister is already on the right track because the city is working with a manager, North Carolina-based Mark Cresswell, who has experience at larger motorcycle events in Sturgis, S.D., and Laconia, N.H. Since astronomical law enforcement costs were the primary reason for the event’s demise in 2008, Hollister officials and Cresswell can start by examining how to significantly reduce the $360,000 number from four years ago.

The bottom line is that Hollister needs the rally. Hollister needs an economic spark. Yet, while moving forward at such a relatively rapid pace – and seemingly with one shot to get it right – cooperation will be necessary from government, business and nonprofit leaders to make the rally a success.

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