Ironman cometh

Spectators greet an athlete at the finish line of the 2010 Ironman Canada in Penticton.

Penticton is going to give Ironman another tri.

City council voted unanimously Tuesday to have staff hammer out a five-year agreement with Ironman to begin running triathlons here again in 2020.

“I think Penticton lost a bit of its identity when we parted ways,” said Coun. Katie Robinson.

“It’s time to bring Ironman back home to Penticton.”

Doing so would end an eight-year dalliance with a series of other triathlon brands that failed to produce participation numbers even close to Ironman, which regularly drew 2,000-plus.

“One of the darkest days in my history was when we had to make a difficult decision many years ago,” said Coun. Judy Sentes, who, along with Mayor John Vassilaki, was on the 2012 council that cut ties with Ironman in a fight over costs and local control.

“One of my happiest days is this decision we’re making now.”

Coun. Julius Bloomfield compared the reunion of Penticton and Ironman to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie getting back together.

“The important thing is, any couple that gets back together, they have to remember what drove them apart in the first place,” noted Bloomfield.

Broad terms of the new arrangement, which still needs to be finalized, would see a gross annual cost to the city of $663,000. That includes $299,000 cash — $150,000 of which is ironman’s licensing fee — plus another $110,000 worth of in-kind services.

City staff have already come up with $53,000 worth of savings on top of $200,000 in commitments from the business community, reducing the net cost to taxpayers to $410,000.

“That fact that we have businesses coming on board already is a great indication of what is out there,” said Coun. Jake Kimberley.

Council earlier in the day heard Ironman’s pitch from Dave Christen, the company’s regional director for the Northwest U.S. and Canada.

“This is where Ironman Canada was born,” he said, noting, though, that the company has grown exponentially since it left Penticton in 2012.

It now hosts 375 events per year in 53 countries drawing one million athletes, not only in triathlon, but also in running- and cycling-only events.

Included in that number are 40 full-distance and 106 half-distance triathlons.

He projected 2,500 athletes would deliver 10,000 participants to the Penticton event.

The 2017 race in Whistler, he continued, attracted 11,174 people and generated $8.8 million in visitor spending and $3.5 million in local wages and salaries.

Ironman’s internal figures show the average competitor is 40 years old and has a family income of $247,000 per year, according to Christen, while 42% of them bring four or more people to an event and 69% stay four or more nights.

He also pledged the new race would honour past Ironman traditions, such as Friday night pasta dinners, awards ceremonies and opportunities for non-profits to earn money supporting the race.

“It’s a commitment from us to make sure it’s done the right way,” said Christen.