It’s good news that the Clifton Hill Climb may be coming back.
That said; we have a few concerns should the event make its return.
Starting with that we’re not hearing much different from when it ran before. And if it wasn’t sustainable before, what makes organizers think it will be sustainable now without changes?
Our primary concern with the event is that it’s not spectator friendly. Due to the nature of the race, spectators can’t line the course, thus requiring a significant amount of video and large viewing screens to be watched by fans, which can be a hefty expense.
And, unlike a traditional auto race, cars aren’t running side-by-side at breakneck speeds, trading paint. It’s just one car traveling from Point A to Point B. Exciting for drivers, but not the most compelling thing for spectators to watch for eight or nine hours.
The success of the event hinges on the number of participants. That is, unless the event is packaged with another event, such as a classic car show.
Spectators love car shows because they can look at every vehicle there, get under the hood, admire the restoration and talk with the owners. Classic car shows are perfect for bringing in participants and spectators.
However, the top classic car shows also require significant sponsorships in order to provide the large prizes — and large number of prizes — required to bring in a large number of top vehicle owners.
While the car shows staged now in Greenlee and Graham counties are fun for locals, they aren’t drawing the owners of big-money cars from California, Texas, Colorado and other states. And it’s those rare, big money cars that can really draw spectators.
Another option might be to include a motorcycle component to the Hill Climb. We’ve long wondered why there isn’t more marketing to motorcycle enthusiasts in Phoenix and Tucson, and Albuquerque and Santa Fe, N.M., most of whom tend to have higher-than-average incomes (which means more disposable income). Especially when a trip up the Coronado Trail to Hannagan Meadow is the perfect attraction for riders.
Combining a day of Hill Climb with a day of traveling the Coronado Trail seems like a way to draw even more to the event and to the area.
Tourism helps reduce the financial burden on local residents by bringing in “outside money” via sales tax. But right now, the two big “tourist” events in Greenlee County — the Hill Climb and the Javelina Chase — don’t lend themselves to spectators, just to participants. And if we see participation stagnate or dwindle, as we have with past Hill Climbs, we lose the benefit that tourism brings.
It’s incumbent on all of us to brainstorm ways to bring more people to the area during those events, so those visitors eat at the local restaurants, stay at the local hotels and RV parks and shop at the local stores.